SEATTLE, WASH. – Earlier today, the family of Jimmy Gabriel confirmed that the Seattle soccer icon passed away at the age of 80. A pillar of the Puget Sound soccer scene since arriving as a player with original Seattle Sounders of the North American Soccer League in 1974, Gabriel leaves a tangible legacy throughout the community.
In addition to patrolling Seattle’s backline and midfield from the club’s founding year through 1979, Gabriel served as a player-coach during this period, beginning a coaching tradition that would last decades. Gabriel served as Head Coach of the NASL Sounders – where he mentored current Sounders FC Head Coach Brian Schmetzer and countless others – going on to accept coaching positions with the San Jose Earthquakes, English sides Bournemouth and Everton, in addition to the USL Sounders and the University of Washington men’s soccer program. Gabriel led the NASL Sounders to their first appearance in the Soccer Bowl in 1977, a memorable contest against the New York Cosmos in Pelé’s final competitive match (a 2-1 loss for Seattle).
A fierce defensive midfielder that began his playing career in his native Scotland with Dundee in 1958, Gabriel had long runs with Everton and Southampton. On Merseyside, Gabriel officially played in 303 matches for Everton between 1960 and 1967, scoring 37 goals, and winning the English First Division title in 1963 and the FA Cup in 1966. On England’s south coast with Southampton, the Scottish international appeared in more than 200 matches from 1967 through 1972. As a Sounder, he memorably scored the first Seattle goal in the newly-constructed Kingdome in 1976 against the Cosmos.
Reflecting on Gabriel’s life and legacy, Sounders FC leadership has offered their remarks and condolences.
SOUNDERS FC OWNER ADRIAN HANAUER
“Today’s news is a heavy blow for anyone that loves soccer in our community. Jimmy Gabriel was beloved in this region, and our sport would not be where it is here today without his influence. Jimmy was integral to those early NASL Sounders teams, which inspired me in my youth and played a major role in my own journey with this club. Jimmy embodied all that is great about our game: he was passionate in everything he did surrounding the sport, but was always humble and a joy to be around. We will miss him dearly, but his legacy lives on here in this community.”
SOUNDERS FC HEAD COACH BRIAN SCHMETZER
“I am saddened to learn of Jimmy’s passing. Today we lost an incredible mentor and friend. Jimmy’s influence on my overall view of life through the game is vast, and there’s no doubt that without his counsel I would not be the same person and coach. I am better in life having known Jimmy, and he will be missed by so many people he touched. I am thinking of his family today and wish them peace in knowing that Jimmy’s impact will never be forgotten.”
SOUNDERS FC GENERAL MANAGER & PRESIDENT OF SOCCER GARTH LAGERWEY
“Jimmy Gabriel is immensely respected in our soccer community, and learning of his passing today is deeply saddening. I know Jimmy was a man of high character and integrity, and from everyone I’ve encountered in Seattle that worked with him over the years, it’s clear that his impact will be felt for generations. On behalf of our organization, I’d like to extend our deepest condolences to his family.”
SOUNDERS FC SVP OF SOCCER OPERATIONS & SPORTING DIRECTOR CRAIG WAIBEL
“I had the honor of playing for Jimmy Gabriel at the University of Washington, and he was much more than a coach. He was someone that made his players better people in everyday life, and I will never forget the lessons he taught. In addition to being a leader and mentor, Jimmy was simply a kind person. He made an impression that has stayed with me long after my playing days. He will be missed.”