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Schmid has expertly captained Sounders ship

After four years with the club, Sigi Schmid may be having his best season as the Sounders head coach.

In his four years with Sounders FC, Sigi Schmid has shown to be a master at his craft.

In 2009, he took a team from scratch and led them to the US Open Cup title and a berth in the playoffs with the fourth-best record in Major League Soccer. They were the first club – and only club – in the modern expansion era of MLS to reach the playoffs in their inaugural season.

He followed that up in 2010 with a second consecutive Open Cup title while also navigating his crew through their first trip to the CONCACAF Champions League. They also returned to the playoffs with the sixth-best record in the league after a mid-season shakeup that saw them trade Best XI midfielder Freddie Ljungberg and integrate Blaise Nkufo and Alvaro Fernandez into the lineup after the World Cup.

In 2011, he was again faced with tumult, this time in the form of a devastating and horrifying injury to star midfielder Steve Zakuani. He again galvanized the Sounders, who went on to be the highest scoring team in the league and finished with the league’s second-best record. They also added a third Open Cup to their trophy case and reached the quarterfinals in the CONCACAF Champions League.

Through it all, Schmid has been the unwavering captain of the ship.

And for all that he has accomplished already with the Sounders, 2012 just may have been his best performance yet.

In 33 matches, Schmid has used 30 different lineups, with injuries being the primary culprit behind the forced flexibility of the roster. Nineteen different players have started 10 or more matches – by comparison, that number is 15 for the West-leading San Jose Earthquakes and coach Frank Yallop and 14 for East-leading Sporting Kansas City and Peter Vermes.

All the while, Schmid and the Sounders have played more games than any other team in the league, with 42 matches dotting the schedule, forcing Schmid into more creativity as he balanced the MLS regular season with a fourth straight berth in the final of the US Open Cup and another move to the quarterfinal of the Champions League.

In addition to his lineup flexibility, Schmid has also integrated 14 new players into the team from last year’s squad.

“It’s hard to ignore what Peter and Frank have done, but I’d say Sigi’s in that three. He’s had to deal with a lot of strong personalities and I think he’s shown his managing skills this year,” Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson said. “He’s the best, or among the best, at managing players and personalities.”

A two-time winner of the Coach of the Year honor, Schmid will go up against the awards only three-time winner in Bruce Arena when the Sounders face the LA Galaxy on Sunday in their MLS regular season finale. Kickoff is slated for 6 pm Pacific with national television coverage on ESPN. After that, the Sounders will face Real Salt Lake for the second straight season in the Western Conference Semifinals.