TORONTO - Less than two full seasons into his tenure as head coach of the Seattle Sounders, Brian Schmetzer is already on the verge of joining an exclusive club.
Beat host Toronto FC in Saturday’s MLS Cup, and Schmetzer will become the fifth coach in MLS history with multiple championships to his name. He’d join former Sounders coach Sigi Schmid (LA Galaxy, 2002, and Columbus 2008), Dominic Kinnear (San Jose, 2001 and 2003) and Frank Yallop (Houston, 2006 and 2007) as two-time winners, with some work left to do to catch five-time champion Bruce Arena (D.C. United, 1996 and 1997, and LA Galaxy, 2011, 2012 and 2014).
Striker Clint Dempsey on Thursday raved about Schmetzer's performance since replacing Schmid in July 2016.
“Being able to get to two finals in a row, hats off to him,” Dempsey said before training in Toronto. “He’s just very competitive and wants to win. Having someone who’s competitive like that and wants to win, it motivates the team. People feed off that.”
Don't be mistaken, though. Schmetzer has a fun, human side as well. Dempsey joked about Schmetzer's predictable routine of unwinding after a win at home with his wife and a glass of wine. And goalkeeper Stefan Frei praised his head coach for resisting the instinct to try and control every aspect of the team.
“He’s given us players so much trust,” Frei said. “Even last year he said this is the players’ team. What you want to do with this team and what you want to achieve with this team, this is up to you.
“To surrender that control to the team is a tremendous sign of respect to the players and we notice that.”
Frei knows Schmetzer is “very passionate” about his Seattle roots, an assertion easily backed up by Schmetzer's footballing history.
Schmetzer signed with the Sounders’ North American Soccer League franchise in 1980 and spent three years with the team before moving to Tulsa for the final NASL season in 1984.
In 1985, Schmetzer was loaned to FC Seattle of the Western Soccer Alliance. Among his teammates that season were younger brothers Andy and Walter.
After his playing career ended in 1995, he spent seven seasons as head coach of the Sounders’ in the United Soccer League, leading the team to championships in 2005 and 2007.
Despite all that, Schmetzer's brief history as an MLS boss means there's a long way to go before his profile could rival prominent American coaches like Arena or Bob Bradley.
But his counterpart Saturday, Toronto coach Greg Vanney, is impressed with Schmetzer’s achievements in a short space of time.
“He’s done a phenomenal job,” said Vanney, who knows the difficulties of winning in MLS after 10 seasons as a player and four as a head coach. “He’s obviously been able to get that group of guys to really compete. He knows those players well and he’s able to get a lot out of them.”
ExtraTime Radio Podcast
LISTEN: The 2017 MLS season comes down to this... Seattle vs. Toronto, an MLS Cup rematch that might just be the best final of all-time, depending on who you ask. Will the Sounders repeat? Will the Reds lay claim the best season of all-time? David Gass and Sam Stejskal get things started from the Six, and Andrew and Matt finish things off from the Green Room back in NYC. Subscribe so you never miss a show! Download this episode!