On Thursday, Sounders FC Majority Owner Joe Roth announced the club’s decision to retain Head Coach Sigi Schmid for the 2014 season, citing that the winningest coach in MLS history is the right man for the job. A two-hour meeting on Tuesday with Schmid and Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer helped the club come to its decision on the head coach position.
“Sigi is the leader of the team. He’s the leader of the players,” Roth said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday. “I wanted to make sure that I understood how that was going to go and what his opinion was and what it was of the team that he had. It was not an emotional meeting whatsoever. It was a two-hour very frank conversation about the disaster of winning one of our last 10 games.”
Much was discussed in that two-hour meeting, as the plans for the future of Sounders FC were set forth. The decision became an easy one when Roth, Hanauer and Schmid all realized they were on the same page for those plans.
“I think in that meeting we heard that Sigi has the same commitment to the tough decisions ahead, the kind of soccer we want to play and the mentality that we want our team to represent for our brand and our fans,” Hanauer said.
Making that decision public then became a priority for the club, ensuring that there was no question of the leadership structure of the organization.
“I think it was right that Adrian was saying that we won’t make an emotional decision based on a disappointing last month of the season,” Roth said. “The decision was to keep him on with full support. To me, once you’ve made that decision, every day you wait allows people to be skeptical or cynical or uncertain.”
Schmid has won more games than any coach in MLS history with a 187-130-101 record in 15 seasons, including the last five years with Sounders FC. In Seattle, he took the helm for an expansion team in 2009 and instantly made it a contender, reaching the playoffs in each of the club’s first five seasons while posting a 74-44-44 record, ranking second in MLS in that time.
Additionally, Seattle has won three consecutive Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup titles and reached the final four straight times, both MLS records. In three appearances in the CONCACAF Champions League, Sounders FC advanced to the quarterfinals in 2011-2012 and semifinals in the 2012-2013 tournament, becoming the first MLS club to oust a Mexican club in the Championship Round.
In 2013, Seattle started the season winless in the first six matches and finished the year without a win in the final seven matches. In the 20 matches in between, it went 14-4-2, though, and that stretch stood out to Roth as a sign of the potential of a Schmid-coached team.
“I think Sigi is a great coach. I’ve been down here in L.A. and I watched him coach UCLA for a long time and at the Galaxy and at Columbus, and we kind of went out of our way to bring him to Seattle,” Roth said. “We just haven’t had a slide like that and it was so shocking and discouraging that we all needed to talk about it. Nobody has won more MLS games than Sigi—he’s a great coach. I just wanted to get more understanding about it and make sure we can do the steps, whatever they are—whether they’re in training or in the locker room or whatever—to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
As the focus of the club shifts from the coaching decision to the on-field product, Roth has set a high standard for the team, but it’s not just about wins and losses and part of that standard is set in place by the record-setting fans that pack CenturyLink Field.
“To me, it’s two things. It’s results and character. We expect to get the results, we expect the team to have the character that we want it to, and if the team has the character we want it to, we’ll get the results,” Roth said. “We always just need to have the same fire in our belly that the fans have. If we can muster up the same passion that the fan base has, we’d be champions of the world. It’s what we’re requiring going forward.”