Every now and then, Sigi Schmid gets a reminder how much he values his position as head coach of the Sounders FC.
He has said several times that walking out onto the field for each match he is awestruck by the throngs of fans singing in unison for their club. However, last Tuesday he gained a new perspective on those fans and what they mean to him when he watched as 40,847 packed CenturyLink Field to root on the US National Team to a 2-0 win over Panama in the first World Cup qualifying match in Seattle since 1976.
“It just made me appreciate even more and fully understand that I have the best job in America in the league because of our fans and their support and how they supported the US team that night,” said Schmid, who is in his fifth season at the helm with the Sounders. “Just to be able to sit back and see it and not be on the field … On the field you’re focused on what’s going on in the game. You’re not focused as much on the fans. Sitting up top and watching the game and seeing everybody standing down below, seeing them into it and seeing the tifo before the game. They’re a knowledgeable crowd that’s cheering at the right times. Having such a pro-US crowd was fantastic.”
On Monday, Schmid spoke to the media for the first time since the World Cup qualifying match, a thrilling display by the US that saw Jozy Altidore continue his hot streak with a first half goal and Sounders forward Eddie Johnson add his 11th goal in 16 World Cup qualifying appearances.
With Johnson’s start as a right midfielder and Brad Evans starting at right back, the Sounders had two representatives in the match and two key contributors the success of the US in the current World Cup cycle. Johnson scored two pivotal goals against Antigua and Barbuda and added the game-winning assist against Guatemala to advance the US to the Hexagonal Round in October. And Evans scored a stoppage-time winner for the first victory for the Americans in a qualifier in Jamaica.
That was another point of pride for Schmid.
“Part of our team is about developing players. Brad has continued to grow and improve and has put himself into the frame with the national team. Eddie Johnson’s national team career was on hiatus when he came here and we were able to get him back into the national team pool and he’s had success,” Schmid said. “It’s very satisfying for the club because not only are we doing well in the league in terms of our results and what we’re offering our fans, but that we’re also helping to continue to grow soccer in the States by helping the national team.”
That success from Sounders players and the impression left by the crowd can only act as a magnet for players, whether they are US National Team players who were there to experience it first hand or they are other players hear from those who were there.
“It’s always a good word-of-mouth experience. Everybody knows about LA and New York and the cities and the glamour that are associated with those cities, but from a soccer side, guys are saying that this is a pretty great place to play,” Schmid said. “The crowd’s great. The field’s good. The atmosphere’s fantastic. The support’s super. I think that certainly doesn’t hurt us.”
The Sounders certainly won’t be the lone benefactors from the spectacle on display at CenturyLink Field though. Schmid also spoke with US head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and assistant coach Andy Herzog and both echoed the sentiments of US Soccer president Sunil Gulati.
“He thought it was great. It was a success. I think the experience was positive,” Schmid said of Klinsmann’s reaction to playing in Seattle. “Hopefully, it will lead to more World Cup qualifiers coming here as we move into the future.”