In Sigi Schmid’s first two weeks as head coach of the LA Galaxy in 1999, he pulled just one regular starter from his XI, putting the versatile Ezra Hendrickson on his bench.
The move paid off in more ways than one.
After four weeks on the bench, a fire was lit under Hendrickson that has yet to be extinguished.
“Ezra proved to me in the weeks of practices that he deserved to be on the field,” Schmid recalled. “Once I put him back on the field three weeks later, he never came off the field again for me.”
All told, Hendrickson played 164 of his 266 career MLS matches over 12 seasons under the tutelage of Schmid with the Galaxy and Columbus Crew.
Now in his third year as an assistant coach, Hendrickson continues to show that passion that put him back in the starting lineup for Schmid in 1999. And a big part of that strength on the Sounders FC bench is that
Hendrickson was still a key piece to a championship team in Columbus when he retired after the 2008 season.
“He’s not far removed from playing, so he still has a good understanding of what players’ needs are,” Schmid said. “He does a good job working individually with the players. There’s a lot of one-on-one work that he does with them on and off the field that a lot of people don’t see.”
That includes training the Sounders FC reserve players who don’t travel on road trips, a task that Hendrickson has performed over the last three seasons and made him an easy choice to lead the squad in the first rendition of the reserve league since the Sounders joined the league in 2009.
That connection aided in Seattle’s 8-1-1 record and Western Division title in the reserve league.
Hendrickson is no stranger to success, too. As a player, he won three MLS Cup titles and three Supporters’ Shields, as well as an Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions Cup.
“He’s won everywhere he’s been, but he’s done it in different roles,” Schmid said. “When I saw his ability to help players even when he wasn’t on the field, I knew that he had the ability to coach.”
With that success has come more confidence in his coaching ability and a greater willingness to share his opinion in different coaching settings. He was never shy with his opinion with Schmid or his teammates as a player and that has carried over to his coaching run as well.
“One of the things that Ezra brings that I really value is he comes at it sometimes with a different point of view,” Schmid said. “When you’ve coached for a while, sometimes you get comfortable with how things ‘should go.’ Ezra is still new to that, so he doesn’t buy into it.”
Hendrickson spent the week in Trinidad at the Sounders FC combine, where he is scouting potential additions to the Seattle roster for the 2012 season and beyond. He will rejoin the rest of the coaches in the MLS combine in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida next week before the MLS SuperDraft on January 12 in Kansas City, where the Sounders are slated to pick 15th and 34th overall.