After the honeymoon period ended of the Seattle Sounders' first few years in MLS ended, the Rave Green were known for a time as one of the league's most flagrant underachievers in the playoffs.
Then two men changed it all; one the physical embodiment of the city's soccer culture, the other from a nation that is the soccer world's equivalent of The Little Engine that Could.
On Tuesday, July 26, 2016, Brian Schmetzer was promoted to interim head coach. The next day, Seattle finalized a move for Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro.
All that has transpired since is an era of dominance at CenturyLink Field that now includes a third MLS Cup appearance in four years after Tuesday's 3-1 upset over an LAFC side some claimed was the best in MLS history.
Lodeiro scored the winner and assisted both ends of Raul Ruidiaz's brace. Afterward, Schmetzer called out all of the non-believers, and in equal measure empathized with and relished the suffering he had inflicted on colleague Bob Bradley's league darling.
The whole experience should've been a reminder to anyone who lives outside the PNW just how good that duo have been since they arrived, with a consistency that is perhaps taken for granted in an era of rapid expansion and increased exposure.
Since Schmetzer took over, first on an interim and then a permanent basis, the Sounders have averaged 1.69 points per game in 116 league matches. It only gets better in the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs, where Seattle's ppg is up to 2.19 over 16 games, while keeping nine clean sheets since 2019.
As if that weren't enough, Schmetzer is Seattle soccer through and through. Schmetzer's father ran the primeaux soccer equipment outlet in town for four decades. Schmetzer played for the both the NASL and APSL version of the Sounders, both indoor and outdoor, as well as the nearby Tacoma Stars in between.
@WeAreECS @ECSTravelMonkey This is how I am traveling home on our Charter plane. Thanks to all of the fans who came to LA, and the fans in Seattle who always support the Team! #ebfg #mlscupfinals pic.twitter.com/HboGZPXptE— brian schmetzer (@brianschmetzer) October 30, 2019
After that, he coached the USL Sounders for seven seasons, then had the humility required to take an assistant position under Sigi Schmid when the club transitioned to MLS in 2009.
As as pitch perfect as Schmetzer has been, it's also fair to ask if he ever gets the interim tag removed without Lodeiro's arrival. While the Celeste international has never won the Landon Donovan MLS MVP award, his 13 regular season games in 2016 — in which he scored four goals and added eight assists to right the Sounders' playoff ship — was as important a stretch as any player has had for an MLS club. Then he merely scored four more goals en route to the club's first MLS Cup.
Fast forward to 2019, and Lodeiro has two goals and four assists three games into these playoffs, while Schmetzer's tactical approach has this year's likely MVP sitting at home.
It has already resulted in a third MLS Cup appearance in four years, and may well result in a second Philip F. Anschutz trophy and maybe even a first ever MLS Cup played by the Sounders in Seattle. If so, it will be largely because of one those two men. Or both. And it will be richly deserved.