SEATTLE – Brian Schmetzer is shedding the interim tag for good.
The Seattle Sounders announced Wednesday night that the longtime assistant and one-time USL boss has been named head coach after resurrecting the 2016 season and putting the team on the brink of a berth in the Western Conference Championship.
Sounders Majority Owner Adrian Hanauer made the announcement during the annual Alliance Annual Business Meeting at CenturyLink Field, ending months of speculation on whether or not Schmetzer would be the club’s long-term solution on the bench.
“We are extremely pleased to announce Brian as the head coach of Seattle Sounders FC,” Hanauer said in a statement. “His connection to this city and club goes back decades, long before I hired him to manage the USL Sounders in 2002. He has always been an incredible steward of the organization and ambassador for our club in the community, and what he and the team have accomplished on the field over the past three months is worthy of recognition."
"With that sentiment in mind, we look forward to seeing him continue his great work this season and beyond.”
Schmetzer was given the interim head coaching position after the Sounders and longtime head coach Sigi Schmid parted ways in July amid a summer swoon that jeopardized the team’s postseason hopes.
But the team lost just twice in the final 14 games of the regular season under Schmetzer (8-2-4) and are still very much alive in the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. The Sounders beat Sporting Kansas City in a dramatic Knockout Round match last week and then hammered FC Dallas in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals on Sunday, putting them 90 minutes away from their third berth in the conference championship in eight years.
“The Sounders organization and the culture of our club has been a big part of my adult life,” Schmetzer said in a statement. “Highlighted by the fans’ relationship to the players and staff and a history of achievement on the field, what we have built here is very special. I am grateful for the opportunities that I’ve received here as a player, a coach in the club’s USL era, and now as head coach of the MLS team.
"I believe in the fact that for our players, this is their team, and they have responded by taking complete ownership of the season and driving us into the playoffs. I give them full credit for that, but our work isn’t finished yet. My goal is to make sure we can all enjoy this ride a little longer deep into the postseason.”
Schmetzer, 54, is no stranger to the Sounders’ history. A Seattle native who signed with the NASL-era Sounders in 1980, Schmetzer played both indoor and outdoor soccer with the club in the early 1980’s. He eventually transitioned to coaching and led the Sounders from 2002-08, capturing two USL crowns while coaching Sounders favorites such as Roger Levesque, Taylor Graham, Leighton O’Brien and Zach Scott.
And when the Sounders transitioned to MLS in 2009, Schmetzer went too. He joined Schmid’s coaching staff and served as an assistant until this summer, when he embraced the new head coaching role with a mix of excitement and humility following Schmid’s departure.
“If you look at the line of coaches we’ve had, we’re all just stewards of the club,” Schmetzer said in July. “What we have here is the club. The club’s always going to be here. We just get a chance to work with super soccer players and good bosses. That’s a good part of it.
“But the club is basically the players and the fans, and their relationship. That is the club.”
Schmetzer promptly found success when he changed the team’s formation to accommodate Designated Player Nicolas Lodeiro, and he received another boost when center back Roman Torres returned from injury in August.
But he was also dealt a setback when the team stunningly lost Clint Dempsey to a heart condition in August, and the team’s postseason fate wasn’t decided until the final day of the regular season after a frantic climb back above the league's postseason line.
Now, however, the Sounders sit on the brink of eliminating the Supporters’ Shield winners on their home turf on Sunday (6 p.m. PT; FS1/KIRO 97.3 FM/El Rey 1360AM), if they can close out the series after a 3-0 win on Oct. 30.
“The talk after the game was, ‘We’re not done. We’re not finished,’’’ Schmetzer said after the team's win. “That message will be repeated throughout the week because Dallas is a very dangerous team. We’re not taking anything for granted. If we come down there saying we’ve already won, then that will be a big mistake. We won’t allow that to happen.”