When Sounders FC named Sigi Schmid head coach back in 2008, it didn’t take him long to name Brian Schmetzer his top assistant coach.
A candidate for that same head coaching job, Schmetzer considered it an honor to work alongside Schmid and stay in his hometown to work with Sounders FC. On occasions over the five years they have worked together, he has also assumed the full duties of a head coach and Tuesday was one of those occasions as Schmid underwent partial knee replacement surgery on his left knee.
Bringing Schmetzer on to lead training is hardly like a substitute teacher, though, and the Sounders didn’t miss a beat with him at the helm.
“The level doesn’t drop by any means. We have a very high respect for what Schmetz brings to the table and I thought the intensity today in practice was very, very high,” said midfielder Servando Carrasco, who has started each of the last eight matches for the Sounders. “The level today was high, but that’s the expectation. That’s our standard every day at practice. The main point is to push each other as players.”
The respect the players have for Schmetzer is not without merit. In seven years coaching the Sounders in the second division from 2002-2008, he won two league championships and took the team the final in three of four seasons from 2004-2007. He also led the Sounders to the Commissioners’ Cup for the best regular season twice and coached 19 players who would later go on to play in Major League Soccer.
He, himself, even filled in twice for Schmid – once when he attended his son’s wedding and once when he was suspended. It is no coincidence that the Sounders FC went 2-0-0 in those matches, topping the Houston Dynamo 2-1 in 2009 and FC Dallas 3-1 in 2012.
His coaching style differs from Schmid’s, although the two have shown to be a formidable pair as head coach and assistant coach.
“It’s an easy transition with Brian. He does some things different than Sigi, but he’s won championships,” Sounders FC sporting director Chris Henderson said. “I think it’s a great opportunity for Brian. I think he’d be a great head coach in this league. We really don’t miss a beat when he takes over.”
Tuesday’s training session, other than the man leading it, was no different than normal. The workload increases on that day, as the team piles on the work before taking Wednesday off, with several short-sided games at high speeds.
“Typically a Tuesday during the week is a really hard work day,” said defender Zach Scott, one of the many success stories to come from Schmetzer’s teams in the USL era. “Schmetz talks a lot and coaches a lot whether Sigi is there or not. He’s a real stickler for details. He can analyze training sessions or a game and pick out things that you might not see the first time through. I think that’s something that a lot of guys appreciate.”
Schmid is expected to return to the team on Friday. And while Schmetzer ran a tight practice session on Tuesday, he was good-natured afterward when he met with the media when talking about he and Schmid.
“I’ve got a hip problem. He’s got a knee problem,” he said, his wry grin crawling up the corners of his mouth. “Between the two of us we might get a halfway usable body.”