Sigi Schmid Named First Head Coach of Sounders FC

The Seattle Sounders FC have signed Sigi Schmid to be the clubs first head coach

RENTON, WASH. – The Seattle Sounders FC named Sigi Schmid as the first head coach in club history, the team announced today. Winner of six major soccer championships, including two MLS Cups, Schmid, 55, signed a multi-year contract.

“We believe Sigi is a perfect fit for what Sounders FC sought in hiring its first head coach,” said Sounders FC Majority Owner Joe Roth. “Sigi is a proven champion in this league and beyond, with an extensive and impressive coaching resume, and a track record for getting the most out of his teams. We believe that with Sigi Schmid as our coach, we have the best possible chance to succeed from the outset. He is the only coach to have led two MLS teams to the championship. We plan on being the third.”

Schmid ranks second in MLS career victories (113), behind only Bob Bradley (124), current U.S. National Team coach. In nine seasons, Schmid’s teams have won 113 games, lost 86 and tied 57. His combined postseason wins (19) are the highest in MLS history.

This past season, he guided the Columbus Crew to both their first MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield (best regular season point total), while being voted MLS Coach of the Year for the second time. Schmid inherited a sixth-place Columbus team in 2006. The Crew improved their win totals from eight to 11 in 2007 before peaking to 17 in 2008. His three-year mark in Ohio was 34-33-25, culminating with the title.

Schmid first won the MLS Coach of the Year in 1999 while coaching the L.A. Galaxy. His teams reached the MLS Cup final four times and won three division crowns, while compiling a 79-53-32 record during his six-year tenure from 1999-2004.

“Clearly, Sigi is a winner, and there are many reasons why success follows him,” said Sounders FC General Manager Adrian Hanauer. “He has a keen eye for talent and a knack for fitting those talents together to make an even stronger group. Players want to play for him. He creates an intense and competitive training environment. He’s demanding and inspiring. He communicates well with his players, he enables them to develop and gets the most out of his squad. He maximizes his players’ abilities.  We have passionate supporters and players, and now we have a passionate coach.”

“There are many reasons for me wanting to come to Seattle,” said Schmid. “First, I feel very comfortable working with our management team, with Joe, Adrian and Chris. I believe we all want to play an entertaining, successful brand of soccer, and to make this a world-class club. Everything I’ve seen and heard since I interviewed here shows this franchise has backed-up their pledge to the fans to make this a very, very special team. I’m excited to be part of that. I couldn’t ask for a better situation, a better challenge for me at this point in my life. This job was attractive to me because this franchise is doing everything at a level of the highest quality.”

Twice Schmid has served as U.S. Under-20 National Team head coach, most recently in 2005 at the FIFA World Championships. Schmid was an assistant to Bora Milutinovic on the Americans’ 1994 World Cup team. He also was head coach for the 1991 World University Games and 1995 Pan American Games.

Schmid has coached four current members of Sounders FC roster at the pro, college or national team level. Peter Vagenas was a member of both championship teams at UCLA (1997) and the Galaxy (2002).
Brad Evans played for Schmid in Columbus. Nathan Sturgis was a member of the U-20 National Team in 2005 and Kasey Keller was with Schmid and the national B team in 1989.

Scores of Schmid’s UCLA players have played professionally and internationally, including Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson, a Bruins player from 1989-90. Schmid first forged a winning tradition at his alma mater, UCLA. After serving as an assistant, he was elevated to head coach of the Bruins in 1980, beginning a 19-year run at the helm. His first NCAA championship was won in 1985 at Seattle’s Kingdome. Sounders FC will play its home matches on the same plot of ground, at Qwest Field.

UCLA went on to claim two more national titles in 1990 and ’97. Schmid was named National Coach of the Year following the l997 season. When he left to take over the Galaxy, his UCLA teams had accumulated a record of 322-63-33. Schmid is a member of the National Soccer and UCLA halls of fame.

Born in Tuebingin, Germany, Schmid relocated with his family to the U.S in 1956 and moved to Torrance, Calif., in 1962. He was a four-year starter at UCLA (1972-75). He and his wife, Valerie, maintain a residence in Manhattan Beach. He has four children: Erik, Lacey, Kurt and Kyle. Kurt completed his second season as an assistant coach at UC Irvine in 2008. Kyle recently completed his career at UC Irvine. He redshirted at the University of Washington in 2004.

Schmid’s first MLS game for Seattle will be Mar. 19, 2009, a nationally-televised match against the New York Red Bulls at Qwest Field.

PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTION

Kevin Calabro
“Sigi Schmid will be named shortly as the new coach of the Seattle Sounders FC. And we are extremely, extremely excited it now seems things are really coming together. We have players and now we have our coach and we are extremely excited to have this grand announcement for you this morning. And we’ll get underway with Tod Leiweke.”

Tod Leiweke
“I brought my to-do list, which was sort of put together a year and a half ago. So, I’ll be brief, but I want to recount everything. And in fact, I’m going to go back farther than a year and a half ago. The citizens of this state built this facility, and there’s a plaque on the wall that says ‘football, soccer.’ There was an unfulfilled promise to bring MLS here, and we’ve done that. We had to put together an ownership group. I couldn’t be more proud of this guy to my left (Adrian Hanauer), Joe Roth and Drew Carey. We needed to sell season tickets this past week, and we crossed over 18,000 season tickets. We’re 18,100 season tickets. We needed to put games on TV. We couldn’t be more proud of our agreement with BELO that’s going to put games on KING and KONG. We needed a voice. As I’ve said often, ‘the Sonics may have gone to Oklahoma City, but that man didn’t,’ and we couldn’t be more proud that Kevin Calabro is going to call our games. We talk about democracy in sports. Led by Drew Carey, we have a membership association with literally thousands of members now. Joe (Roth) is not here, so I won’t give it to Adrian, but that membership association will have unique privileges in the world of sports. These teams need title partners, and without them economically it’s very tough. We targeted one company and we couldn’t have found a better partner in Microsoft and Xbox. We’re proud to wear Xbox across our jersey. We have to sell suites. We’ve sold 67 of those so far with our best days in front of us yet to come. Kevin (Calabro) talked about players. The dream of bringing Kasey Keller back home, the most decorated U.S. soccer player of all-time. Then there was the opportunity to recruit a designated player. We announced Freddie Ljungberg, and we’re thrilled. While all of those are powerful announcements, I think today is truly a defining moment in this franchise and where we want to be. Without further adieu Adrian (Hanauer).”

Adrian Hanauer
“I couldn’t be more excited then I am today with this announcement. This is a truly a defining moment for our franchise. Someone was mentioning that I was wearing a tie for one of the very few times recently. When we announced this franchise, I wasn’t wearing a tie. So Sigi (Schmid) that’s how big a day it is for us here in Seattle. This process started in earnest three or four months ago. We developed a list of domestic and international candidates to bring in, interview, talk to about this position as head coach for the expansion Seattle Sounders FC. We narrowed the list down to roughly ten candidates. Maybe six of those we had extremely in depth conversations with. And many of these candidates either are or will be spectacular coaches in Major League Soccer or around the world. But when Sigi Schmid’s contract came up, and we were able to have discussions with Sigi, one candidate stood out above all others and that was Sigi Schmid. And we jumped at the opportunity to have discussions and finally get to a contract with Sigi. One of the reasons we were able to get there is that we had time on our side. Again, we announced this franchise a little over a year ago. We’ve known about it for maybe 15, 16, 17 months. And the luxury of time has afforded us the ability to do some things; some of the milestones that Tod (Leiweke) talked about. But also, by not having to rush this process, and as we’ve said in the past ‘by getting it right and not necessarily doing it quickly’, we’ve been able to wait and in our minds hire the best coach in Major League Soccer. This luxury of time may not be quite what it was six months, or even three or four months ago. We’re quickly approaching the time when players will come into camp. That’s about 30 days away.  In 90 days, we’ll play our first game at Qwest Field. Red Bull New York will be here. They will be ready, and I believe we will as well, especially with Sigi in place. There’s no other coach in the country, in the world that I’d rather be introducing today. Sigi is absolutely the right man for the job. We’re very, very excited. The organization is excited to welcome him to Seattle; he, his wife Valerie, their kids. His brother Roland (Schmid) and Roland’s wife actually live in Seattle, so it should make the transition in making Seattle home hopefully that much easier. I’ve known Sigi closing in on ten years now, back to the days when he was with the L.A. Galaxy. We had some deals with players, and I always respected the way he dealt with players, and the way he built teams. That stuck with me over the years. Chris Henderson has known Sigi 20 years we decided last night, since his days back at UCLA when Chris helped Sigi and UCLA win a national championship. So to be able to hire a coach with the character we know well, and a gentleman whose philosophies align so well with our organization is just a dream come true. This philosophy revolves around: playing good, attacking, creative soccer, but it also revolves around identifying good talent, good soccer players; developing those players into better soccer players; developing those players into better teammates; developing those players into a cohesive unit, a team, a chemistry; and perhaps most importantly, developing soccer players into good young men over a period of time when they come out the other side of the organization. Not only do the philosophies align, but clearly Sigi had a number of the characteristics, the attributes that we were looking for in a coach as well. They were absolutely essential in making this decision. Sigi’s a winner. He’s won two MLS championships, U.S. Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions Cup, Supporters Shield, three championships at UCLA. He’s a great leader. He gets the most out of his players. And again, (he is) a great judge of talent. And actually, Sigi understands Major League Soccer perhaps better than anybody on the planet, and clearly this is a huge benefit as we move forward. So, not to put undo pressure on Sigi, but as our partner Joe Roth said eloquently, ‘Sigi’s the only coach to win MLS championships with two different MLS teams; we plan on being the third.’ Again, in a series of decisions that have been meant to put Sounders FC on the map in the United States and globally, we are very, very proud to announce Sigi Schmid as our first head coach. We have prepared a short video presentation and please direct your attention to the video boards.”

(Sigi Schmid highlight video plays)

Kevin Calabro introduces Sigi Schmid
“Sigi, I’m going to let you take the microphone, but first I just want to let everybody know he’s a very gracious man. I had a lot of anxiety about doing play-by-play of soccer because it’s something I’ve never done before, but he immediately assured me that it’s just like basketball. He knows all the Bruins, John Wooden. That’s what intrigues me, the 19 years at UCLA and coached three championships, playing for the soccer team in ’75, graduated from UCLA, friend of Sid Wicks and some other good basketball folks of the Bruin. So automatically, we have created a bond. Sigi, I thank you for that very much and welcome to Seattle, congratulations.”

Sigi Schmid
“Thanks very much. I’m excited. When I look at this turnout, and I see all these cameras and all these people here, I know without a doubt I’ve made the right decision to come here. The gentleman up here with me, Tod (Leiweke) and Adrian (Hanauer) and Chris (Henderson) obviously played a very important role in attracting my attention here. To go with Adrian’s comment about wearing ties, I’m not one who wears ties very often either, and if you see me in a tie very often that means I’m not doing my job on the field. So hopefully you won’t see me in one often. And knowing Chris for 20 years, you can all agree, he’s aged a lot better than I have. He looks much younger still than I do. To be the first coach of this franchise, in my visit up here to see what this club is doing behind the scenes: the organization, the structure, the commitment to the community and the commitment to the sport of soccer is beyond what’s happening anywhere in this entire country. That’s something that I was very excited to be associated with. It helps me certainly to be close to my brother. We’ve been apart for a long time. (Pause) As you can tell, I’m an emotional guy. For me, I’ve had some great experiences in this sport and I’d never trade any of the past experiences for what I’m about to encounter. It means a lot to me. It means a lot to me. And to hear the words that these gentlemen have said, it means a lot to me to be here now in this city. My whole goal is to win games. But you can’t win games without great players. I’ve never been a coach that believes that I’m the solution, or I’m the answer. All that I am is a conduit to try and create an environment that allows the athletes that I’ve been blessed with to coach to perform, and to perform at the best of their abilities on the field. If I can get the most out of each individual that plays for me, winning will take care of itself, and that’s the philosophy that I’ve always had. There’s a gentleman in this room who was a part of the original Sounders by the name of Jimmy Gabriel. And he said something to me a long time ago that has always stuck with me. And he said, ‘soccer can’t be fun, fun, and it can’t be serious, serious. It’s got to be serious fun.’ So, I’m telling you right now, in these years ahead we’re going to have some serious fun. And I’m very happy to be here in Seattle.”

Sigi Schmid
(On reasons for having such success in the past…) “One is you have to identify talented players. I remember people saying me when I was at UCLA, ‘well it’s easy to recruit at UCLA when you get the best players.’ And I said, ‘well do I have to recruit bad players to prove I’m a good coach.’ I don’t think so. You try and find the best players that you can. Character is a very important element in that regard. How together a team is off the field. How good the locker room atmosphere is. Those are things that are important. Guys have a smile on their face when they come to work everyday. And if the backroom staff, the assistant coaches, everybody enjoys what they’re doing, that creates an environment that makes it a lot easier to win. That’s a philosophy that I’ve always tried to follow, and it’s worked out well, and I’ve had more successful players.”

(On selling points to leave the Columbus Crew for Seattle…) “It was hard to leave Columbus, because obviously it was three years in building a team that ended up having a very successful season. And certainly, as you can tell, my emotional attachment to players is something that I’m the kind of coach that is maybe closer to the players then some other coaches are. So leaving that group was hard. But for me, the main selling point for coming here is just what you see here; the organization that supports the commitment to the sport. For my family it’s also a plus to be on the west coast makes it easier. My wife is entrenched in L.A. with all her kids being down there and this is a lot easier way for us to see each other, because actually we do like to see each other contrary to what people think. Although maybe distance is good for a marriage together, I don’t know. It was just the commitment of the organization that for me was one of the big selling points.”

(On looking at other opportunities outside of Columbus…) “There were other opportunities out there for me. There were other teams that expressed interest and so there were other opportunities to look at for sure. And it was a situation in Columbus where things didn’t proceed as I thought they were going to proceed in our negotiations, especially early on in that stage. At that point, I wanted to look at what other opportunities are out there. I’m getting older, so maybe I’m a little more limited as to how many more years I can do this. When I was presented with the opportunity here and came out to visit, it just seemed like the right fit.”

(On experience building winning teams in the past…) “Each of them are different. L.A., there was already a team that had had some success. It was a team that had been to the MLS Cup in their first year. And it was a team that was considered very talented, but always falling short of its goal. So for them, and in that situation, it was more finding the final ingredients, maybe finding the final mental fortitude to carry it on and go to the next level. And we won three championships in four years. In regards to Columbus, it was a complete rebuilding job, a little bit similar to when I started at UCLA. But now, this situation here, the base already that Adrian (Hanauer) and Chris (Henderson) have acquired and with the signings they’ve made and the players they’ve picked up in the expansion draft, I think that base is already a little bit stronger than it was in Columbus in my first year. I’m very happy with that.”

(On his thoughts about the fans having a say in team operations…) “I heard they can only vote on the GM. They can’t vote on me, right? I think I’m safe. I’ll try to hang out a lot at the various bars and opportunities, meet the fans. Actually I think the relationship with the fans is very important. Soccer is a very unique sport. It’s one of the sports that I think is more interactive than almost any other sport. I remember a Brazilian friend telling me that when you listen to the music in the stands, if the samba music is really good and it’s in rhythm, the team’s playing well on the field. And when the music in the stands is off a little bit, the team’s off on the field. And I think that’s the uniqueness in soccer. It’s something that we built last year in Columbus. It’s something that I know can be built here, and that we will build. I expect a strong connection between our players and our fans, and between our staff and fans.”

(On if Brian Schmetzer will have a role with this team…)“That’s something that we’re evaluation, obviously as we speak. Brian Schmetzer is somebody that has been with the Sounders organization for a long time. I’ve known Brian for a lot of years. I feel very comfortable with him. In terms of his situation, that’s a decision that I want to make fairly quickly here. He’s somebody that I have a lot of respect for, and he’s had a lot of success in the A-league level.”

(On what Kasey Keller and Freddie Ljungberg bring to the squad…) “Obviously having those guys on the teams is a tremendous plus. I’ve known Kasey for 20 years as well. Chris and I were talking about that. In 1989, in a tournament in France, I was the assistant coach, Kasey was the goalkeeper, Chris was the left winger on that team. So he’s a guy who brings a ton of experience. He’s obviously a local guy and I think that’s a great cornerstone around which to build your team. Freddie is a player that has played in one of the premier clubs in the world in Arsenal, and he brings that experience, and having played for an excellent coach and mentor in Arsene Wenger. When you have players like that what happens is their experience. They’ve been through all those battles. And they’re calm going into key games in key situations. That’s what the young players learn from. They see how their demeanor is. They see their calm. They see their approach. And the more they can rub that off onto the young players, the quicker and faster we become a good team.”

(On the process of team-building…) “It’s an on-going process. It’s a process that obviously in the preseason is very important. But as you do, however you want to call it, the fancy term of team building. Trips, when you go away in preseason. When we have to go down south and play games, and they’re together in the hotel and they’re interacting with each other, then that’s where a lot of that builds. And then you see how players get along. How they gel on the field. It also builds by what you do everyday at training. Our trainings are going to be intense. It’s going to be very competitive, because I think that’s important for a team. But we’re also going to be able to laugh on the field. And they know when it’s time to work, and we’ll work hard, and when we’re done with the work we’re going to enjoy what we just did. That’s an important part in building the team spirit.”

(On his relationship with his brother Roland and if that played a role in his signing with Seattle…) “He’s ten years younger than me, and he’s a lot better looking than I am. I was in a very strange situation when I was actually a head coach at UCLA he played for me. Luckily when I put him into the lineup, in the first four games he scored a couple of goals and had a couple of assists, so nobody argued with me after that. And he’s also a big guy, so they don’t argue with him too much anyway. In the interim, he’s lived in Atlanta. We’ve always had a special bond. I’m getting emotional again. Part of it is my mother passed away at an early age. He was 13 at the time. I was 23. There’s always been a bond between us because of that. So being able to know that he’s around and his family is around and I’ve got nephew, nieces in the area as well certainly makes it a great situation. And knowing that you always have family in the area it was great. My youngest son was at U-Dub for a year, and knowing that you have family here makes things easier. At that time, my brother wasn’t here, so it was a little harder. It’s great to know that I will see him on a consistent basis. And he might even attend a few games, if not all of them.”

(On others saying he’s a defensive first coach…) “I don’t know where that came from, because when that rap was put on me we were the highest scoring team in the league. Last year at Columbus, we were the second highest scoring team in the league. We were the team that had the best goal differential in the league between goals scored and goals against. My philosophy has always been that you have to be a multi-faceted attacking team, maybe like in football like a west coast offense where you’re going to find a number of different receivers. So when you look at the teams in the past, with the exception of maybe Carlos Ruiz in the 2002 season, I’ve never had a super big goal scorer. We’ve scored from a lot of different positions, a lot of different places. Defending is very important though. You don’t win without defending. But for me, you have to defend well, because if you want to play offense, you’ve got to get the ball. So if you don’t defend well, you don’t get the ball. My whole point of defending is we want to defend well as a team. We want to put pressure on the opponent. We want to win the ball back at good parts of the field that allows our attacking plays to develop easier. All sports are really similar when you look at it. If every time we defend, we only win the ball back in our own 18’ yard box we got a long way to go all the time. But if we can pressure at the right points and win the ball back in the middle-third of the field and the attacking-third, then it becomes easy to combine. We want to score goals. We want to get at the opponents. I believe a lot in wing play. You got to go around teams on the outside. Having a fast winger certainly doesn’t hurt. Speed is something you can’t coach. So obviously as much as we can get in that area, we’re going to be happy with.”

Adrian Hanauer
(On what Sigi’s involvement will be in building the team…) “It’s again just a brilliant soccer mind involved in the process now, and quite frankly a significant influence. Ultimately, it’s his team on the field; he has to be comfortable with the players. Hopefully what I can provide is a little bit of a buffer, perhaps some ability to take some of the pressure off him to whether it’s negotiate players salary, or to have to deal with that piece of the puzzle, do some of the advance work and present opportunities. Sigi, with his contacts around the world, obviously will play a key part of making those contacts as well. We’ll work as a team. Sigi will have an enormous influence over the process.”

(On if Sigi makes it easier on the scouting process…) “I don’t know if it’s easier. It’s more defined I suppose. I think that in general more sets of eyes, obviously too many sets of eyes can spoil the process, but more sets of eyes, especially when they’re the quality of Sigi’s help.

(On if Sigi’s contractual issues were a distraction…) “Not really a distraction. The issue was trying to get past this non-complete in Sigi’s contract. We got through that and moved on.”

Sigi Schmid
(On expectations for this upcoming season…) “For us, we want to be competitive in every game that we step on the field with right from day one. I’m not a big believer in saying ‘oh, we only lost 1-0 today,’ or something like that. We want to be competitive. We want to try and win games right at the beginning. We also have to be realistic. We have to understand that we are an expansion team. Certainly players play a lot better together once they’ve gotten 20, 30 games under their belt then when they’re first getting to know each other. As with anything, players know ‘ok this is where this player likes to receive the ball. This is how he likes to receive it. This is his speed. He wants the balls played to his feet. He’s a good target hold-up guy, so I can run off of him when it goes there.’ Those are all things they learn from each other as they play more with each other. So that’s going to take a period of time of growth. But in terms of effort, in terms of the work rate that we put out in each game, the enthusiasm that we play with, that’s something I want there right from the beginning. And I think we’re going to be competitive in every game that we step on the field with. And I’m looking forward to the first challenge on March 19 against the Red Bull.”

Chris Henderson
(On Sigi’s soccer knowledge and what he brings to his teams…) “Of any coach in America, I’ve played for a lot of coaches, Sigi knows more about individual details of the players. You name a player. He’ll tell you how he runs, what he uses, what his strengths and weaknesses are. He knows players in this country. He has a unique way of getting the most out of each guy. I think each player needs to be treated and motivated in a different way. He finds a way of bringing the team together, and having a good spirit, chemistry. I think that shows with the success he’s had at each level. The competitive atmosphere that’s created every single day is pushing each player to become players, and that helps the teams in the games a lot.”

Sigi Schmid
(On what he’s learned from coaches in other sports…) “You learn a lot from just watching coaches in different sports. And having been an athlete at UCLA in that period of time, and our locker room was in Pauley Pavilion as a soccer team. After soccer practice, I used to sit there and always catch the last half an hour to an hour of almost every basketball practice. It was a tremendous education. Coach (John) Wooden’s attention to detail, and his attention to fundamentals, and the quiet leadership, which sometimes I don’t show it that way, because everybody has differently personalities. He got the most out of every player. Talking to some players that I became friends with who played for him that was the big thing that they said. I also had the benefit of watching Pat Riley work all the time with the great Laker teams, because they used to work out at UCLA. So watching him work with Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and James Worthy and that whole group, and just seeing man-management issues. How they manage individuals, because every sport is the same, you’re managing people. And whether that’s football, or basketball, or baseball or any sport your managing people.”

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