When the Sounders meet the LA Galaxy Sunday at the Home Depot Center, it will be a clash of the two winningest coaches in Major League Soccer history.
Seattle’s Sigi Schmid is on top of the list with 172 career victories and LA’s Bruce Arena is second with 144 wins.
Theirs is a stability rare amongst MLS head coaches, but one that has proven successful around the league.
Of the six coaches that have remained with the same team as head coach since the Sounders joined MLS in 2009, only one did not make the playoffs in 2012. Each, however, has been fairly consistent in the postseason in that time. That list includes Conference finalists Schmid, Arena and Houston coach Dominic Kinnear, as well as San Jose’s Frank Yallop and Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis. The lone coach to miss the playoffs was Columbus Crew boss Robert Warzycha.
“Stability is very important,” Schmid said. “When I was here with the Galaxy, we had a good run of success and it was very stable. Things became unstable and the success went away. As Bruce has come back, it’s become very stable again and they’ve done well.”
Seattle, LA and Salt Lake have all been in the playoffs all four years, while Houston and Columbus have reached the postseason three times in that span and San Jose has appeared twice in the playoffs. Even Peter Vermes with Sporting Kansas City joined the coaching ranks during the 2009 season and has been in the playoffs in two of the three full seasons he coached.
The success of those clubs is far from coincidental.
“When you have the stability and people are pulling the rope all in the same direction, it makes it easier to have success,” Schmid said.
With the Galaxy, Arena has coached the last five seasons, and while they struggled in his first season with the club in 2008, they have twice reached the MLS Cup final, winning in 2011 with a star-studded lineup and the tactical mind of Arena.
“Bruce’s teams are always good. They’re well-organized. He allows them to be creative,” Schmid said. “They like to get forward and sometimes that opens them up a little bit in the back, but on the same token, he demands that his team gets back and defends as a unit. They are always well-prepared, they’re well-coached and they’re motivated. They’ve done well consistently in big games.”
The meeting of those two coaching minds will commence Sunday at 6 pm at the Home Depot Center with television coverage on ESPN. The second leg of the Western Conference final series will be November 18 at CenturyLink Field.