Up until that moment, if most people had associated any word with that of new Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid, it was ‘Winner.’
But just a sentence or so into his opening remarks at Tuesday’s press conference, everyone came to the realization that Schmid is much more than that. He’s not just a master tactician and teacher and so on. This guy’s got a whole lot of passion.
The tears he shed surprised his brother Roland and Sigi’s wife Val, who was watching via the web in Los Angeles. “She gave me a bunch of grief for that,” says Schmid. Was he embarrassed?
“Well, no, that’s probably not what I wanted to see in the paper, but it’s part of me,” he confesses. “Not in the sense that I’m going to cry every second or something. But I’ve always believed that when you’re coaching teams, you’ve got to be honest with them and show them your passion. You’ve got to show them you care.”
Because he was speaking of Roland when he was overcome with emotion, some guessed that family matters were the most deeply affecting for Sigi. In truth, it was that and a whole lot more.
What really hit Schmid at that moment was a reality that he had not foreseen when he first began coaching more than 30 years ago. During his first few seasons at UCLA, the job was part-time, the press and the crowds were non-existent. Soccer had a long way to go.
On the morning in question at Qwest Field, he surveyed the scene before him: A half-dozen TV cameras, even more photographers and a room full of not only the media but many close friends and past colleagues. The totality of it all hit him out of the blue.
“What struck me most was that, for the first time since the World Cup, we are being treated like a major sport,” Schmid explains. “I sat there and said to myself, ‘This is big time.’
“The commitment that’s being put into Sounders FC from the organization, from the buzz and the reaction of the people, we’re being treated like a big time sport, and that’s a great starting point.”
Let’s Get Real
A few of the Sounders FC players already know Schmid, be it Brad Evans from Columbus, Peter Vagenas from both UCLA and the Galaxy, or Nate Sturgis and Kasey Keller from national team duty.
Although the tears might be news to them, the man’s passion for his players and the game have always been there.
Sigi Schmid is all about being real. There’s nothing artificial added.
“As a coach, I’ve never wanted to plan things or pretend to be emotional or angry. That’s fake,” he shares. “To me it’s always been about reacting honestly to the situation that’s presented. Players know when you’re faking it and when you’re real, and I expect them to be real with me.”
Of course, being true to one’s self has consequences. This past week, live on two local stations, it was reality TV, raw and uncut.
“Sometimes reality means you wear your emotions on your sleeve,” says Schmid. “You might get angry, you get upset and, yeah, you can get emotional. It’s something you can’t predict.”
Work Then Play
By the time he leaves the Fox Soccer Channel studio on Monday evening, Sigi Schmid will be ready for a vacation. And what do you know, that break begins Tuesday morning with a flight to paradise.
For those wanting to wish Schmid well, probe his plans or ask him what he wants for Christmas, you’re invited to call 1-888-FOX-FANS or text 32369 during the Fox Soccer Fone-In show which airs live Monday from 5-7 p.m. Pacific. It will be replayed at 8 p.m.
The first eight hours of the Schmid Era were packed with interviews and, later, getting to know a large gathering of fans at F.X. McRory’s. Among them were his first youth coach, AYSO founder and Vashon Island resident Hans Stierle, and his family.
On the following morning, Schmid met the club’s entire staff for the first time, then got down to business. He joined general manager Adrian Hanauer, technical director Chris Henderson and other members of the team staff to finalize details on preseason camps. The triumvirate also exchanged information toward the ongoing search for additional players.
By Wednesday afternoon, Schmid beat the snow and hopped a plane to L.A. Awaiting him were scores of phone messages and e-mails from both well-wishers and those who have their own ideas about who Sounders FC should next sign.
“Most of them were congratulations from friends and people I don’t always hear from,” he says. “You also get e-mails from agents. Those start out with a congratulations, and then they mention, ‘I have a few players for you.’”
Players with talent, no doubt. Yet Seattle’s new coach cares just as much about their passion.
Turn On, Tune In
Saturday, Dec. 20
9:30 a.m. (PT), FSC, West Ham v Aston Villa
Why Watch: Hammers last won at home Sept. 20; Villa could take 3rd
11 a.m. (PT), GolTV, Real Madrid v Valencia
Why Watch: Los Blancos still formidable and high-scoring at Bernabéu
11:30 a.m. (PT), FSC, Siena v Inter
Why Watch: Siena’s conceded only two goals; Inter scored 16 away
Sunday, Dec. 21
2:30 a.m. (PT), FSC, LD Quito v Manchester United
Why Watch: Who wants to be a millionaire? Club World Cup winner nets $5 mil
8 a.m. (PT), FSC, Arsenal v Liverpool
Why Watch: Troubled at Anfield, Reds pay visit to misfiring Gunners
10 a.m. (PT), GolTV, Villareal v Barcelona
Why Watch: Yellow Submarine faces the Eto'o, Messi & Barca juggernaut
Monday, Dec. 22
11 a.m. (PT), Setanta, Everton v Chelsea
Why Watch: Just what Big Phil needs; Chelsea has won 11 straight away
5 p.m. (PT), Fox Football Fone-In
Why Watch: Three excellent reasons: Sigi, Sigi, Sigi
Tuesday, Dec. 23
2 p.m. (PT), FSC, Boca Juniors v Tigre (tentative)
Why Watch: This will decide outcome of Argentina’s tightest ever title race
Friday, Dec. 26
7 a.m. (PT), FSC, Manchester City v Hull City
Why Watch: Matchup between the richest and most surprising EPL sides
9:30 a.m. (PT), FSC, Aston Villa v Arsenal
Why Watch: Boxing Day action wraps with top-five affair
FSN airs In My Own Words: Sigi Schmid on Friday at 7 p.m. PT and Saturday at 4:30 PT…The Club World Cup wraps-up in Tokyo this weekend, with Man United seeking its third title (dating back to the old Intercontinental Cup) against Ecuador’s Quito…After this weekend, Spain, France, Portugal, Italy join Germany on break for holidays…The inaugural match for Women’s Professional Soccer should feature a mended Abby Wambach and Washington at the L.A. Sol on Mar. 29… Chalise Baysa of the Sounders participated in the WPS Combine…Huskies senior midfielders George John and Raphael Cox are bound for the MLS Combine in Florida next month… The opener for the final stage of World Cup qualifying, USA v Mexico, will return to Columbus on Feb. 11…The U.S. moved up to No. 22 in the latest FIFA rankings with Mexico 26th. Spain is No. 1, followed by Germany and Holland. In the women’s ratings, the Olympic champion USA was trailed by Germany and Brazil.