The Seattle Sounders have been a very fortunate club in their 13-year history, they made a huge splash when they came on to the scene selling out Lumen Field on a weekly basis and winning the U.S. Open Cup on various occasions. Along the way came the club's two MLS Cups and at the helm was a local coach, a proud Sounder, Brian Schmetzer.
Brian Schmetzer, when one looks at him, does not have the look of a man who is preparing one of MLS’s best teams next game, rather he looks like a math teacher preparing his classes' next pop quiz. Schmetzer’s soft voice and laid-back style is a far cry from some of the other coaches in MLS who seem to have more media appeal.
When one takes a look at Brian Schmetzer’s body of work, no one can deny, he is one of, if not the best coach in all of Major League Soccer. Schmetzer has led the Sounders to 4 of the last five MLS Cups since 2016, winning two.
A coach with a local history and an impressive resume
Brian Schmetzer history in Seattle soccer goes as far back as the old NASL where he was a player, playing as a midfielder/ forward, over the years he came back to Seattle playing for the Sounders in the APSL and indoor. He would eventually become the Sounders head coach when the club was in the USL in 2001 and would stay at the helm until the team graduated into MLS. In his eight seasons in charge, Schmetzer won the USL twice (2005, 2007), the Commissioner's Cup: 2002, 2007, USL A-League Western Conference: 2004, USL A-League Pacific Division: 2002, 2003 and the Cascadia Cup: 2006, 2007.
Still all those accolades along with 121 career wins in 239 matches was not enough to keep him as the head coach. The new MLS version of the Sounders wanted an MLS man to lead the team and Schmetzer took a back seat to legendary coach Sigi Schmid. Schmetzer stayed on as an assistant until Schmid left the club in 2016 in the middle of what was a difficult season for the club. The team turned it around and Schmetzer was able to lead the Sounders to their first ever MLS cup.
As of this article, Schmetzer has two MLS Cups under his belt and continues to have a 50% winning percentage and is currently atop of the West in the 2021 season, undefeated.
More substance over style
Schmetzer, while appreciated by fans in Seattle, sometimes goes unnoticed by mainstream media. If one takes a look at the other coaches who get all the love, to say they are even in Schmetzer’s league is an understatement. Matías Almeyda, a media darling for the Spanish speaking media and for his social media content, has been largely a disappointment at San Jose. The Earthquakes are competitive, but title contenders after three years under the Argentine they are not. Gabriel Heinze is still getting his feet wet in MLS, but despite all that soccer pedigree, Atlanta United, who have one of the largest payrolls in MLS, are yet to take the league by storm.
When compared to other American coaches, Bob Bradley and Bruce Arena seem to be in front of the pack, but mostly for their USMNT past. Bradley has coached very well in LAFC, but still during Schmetzer’s era, it is Schmetzer MLS Cups 1 and 3 finals to Bradley’s 0 since LAFC entered the league. Bruce Arena has done a remarkable job in making the Revolution relevant and in the process reviving his own career, but still Schmetzer continues to reach finals while the Revs are a work in progress. Greg Vanney was Schmetzer’s main villain during their MLS Cup battles but again it’s 2-1 in favor of Schmetzer.
Finding the right ambassadors
As the league continues to spend more and more and teams look for high profile coaches to accommodate big name talent, Seattle is a place where local roots matter. Schmetzer has shown he can coach big name players, Clint Dempsey, until his heart condition forced him to retire, flourished under Schmetzer. Nicolás Lodeiro who has been coached by some of the best coaches in South America has become Schmetzer’s unquestionable captain and team leader. Lodeiro has been MVP level under Schmetzer, while Raúl Ruidíaz is one of MLS most lethal forwards scoring 39 goals in 61 games.
Today Schmetzer’s contributions on the field have resulted in a multiyear contract extension, the man with a math teacher’s demeanor and little press continues to do something many of his high profile counterparts don’t… win.