TUKWILA, Wash. – In discussions of the top-tier coaching minds in MLS, Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer’s name doesn’t seem to pop up all that frequently.
But should it? As the Sounders gear up to take on FC Dallas in their first-round Western Conference matchup at CenturyLink Field on Saturday in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs (3:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes in US; TSN5, TVAS in Canada), it’s worth considering his resume.
In 2016, he oversaw Seattle’s first-ever MLS Cup title after taking over a 6-12-2 team that embarked on one of the greatest midseason turnarounds in league history. The Sounders have never finished lower than second on the Western Conference table in the years since, managing the No. 2 seed again this season despite a myriad of adverse circumstances that included the unexpected retirement of star center back Chad Marshall and a plethora of additional injuries and absences.
“He’s a player’s coach. He’s not one to rip into guys very often and he’s definitely someone that will talk to you calmly, so when things are tough it doesn’t necessarily always seem like such a dire situation,” winger Jordan Morris said after training on Thursday. “I think that’s a credit to him and the staff and the players for never giving up. He always preaches that, that this is a team that doesn’t give up. So, I think that’s a mentality that we all have here, is that no matter what’s going on we’re going to keep fighting.”
Schmetzer may never be known as a master tactician in the vein of some of the other more high-profile coaches in the league. But it’s that type of man-managing that is often described as one of his biggest strengths, and his players say it’s an important one.
“I think he cares about the individual,” midfielder Cristian Roldan said. “It’s tough to see both sides of things, of the player and of the person, but I think he does a really good job of talking about personal life vs. soccer life and acknowledging that things in your personal life can affect the way you play, the way you practice, the way you are.
“He does a really good job of communicating with you and talking about what he thinks about the field, what he sees, what he wants you to improve on. And that’s all you want. You want some clarity, and I think Schmetz does a really good job with that.”
Schmetzer himself has never been a self-promoter. He often deflects praise onto his staff of assistants, which is a star-studded one that includes two-time MLS MVP Preki, a Champions League winner with Liverpool in Djimi Traore, a former Mexico national team staple in Gonzalo Pineda and one of the most highly regarded goalkeeper coaches in MLS in Tommy Dutra.
“Best staff in the league,” Schmetzer said on Thursday. “Obviously, I’m very biased but I believe that is the best staff in the league. If you look at Preki and [our] dynamic, friends since the [Tacoma] Stars, a long history, there’s trust.
“Gonzo and Djimi are taking their UEFA A Pro licenses, they are young hungry coaches, very good. Tom Dutra, I’ve talked about, I mean, his reputation among goalkeeping coaches in this league is top-notch. Tom Childs, our video guy, we video every single training session and we go back in there and watch the training sessions. We have a very, very talented staff.”
In other words, Schmetzer doesn’t much care whether he’s part of the national discussion. But if the Sounders can manage another lengthy playoff run this season, perhaps he’ll finally find himself in the mix.