Former Seattle Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid this week conceded that while his relationship with star forward Clint Dempsey was under some stress, he never lost the collective confidence of the locker room as the Sounders' season went off the rails.
Schmid and the Sounders mutually agreed to part ways on July 26 with the club stuck in the middle of its worst season in franchise history. A report on SoccerWire.com released the day Schmid was let go cited sources indicating more than one veteran player was upset with frustration and infighting on the team.
The report singled out Dempsey and indicated he and Schmid weren’t on speaking terms as the USMNT forward’s frustrations mounted this summer, but Schmid told ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle the relationship didn’t devolve that far.
"I think Clint is an immensely talented player, and there was a frustration there because of our inability to find him with the ball in higher positions up the field," Schmid told ESPN. "As a result he came back [into midfield] and obviously you watch him play now with [new signing Nicholas] Lodeiro, and Lodeiro can find him, so now the wheels and the spokes are working a lot better.
"I think it was just a case that Clint is competitive and I'm competitive and we both want to win. We were each trying to do what we could do to make that happen. Sometimes it was productive and sometimes it wasn't as productive as it needed to be."
Schmid said he communicated with a number of Sounders players after he was let go two days after the team’s 3-0 loss to Sporting Kansas City on July 24, a sign that he had not lost the locker room even as the club stumbled through a historic rough patch of play.
"I know I spoke to a lot of players after I got let go, who reached out. I didn't reach out to them, they reached out to me," Schmid said. "I think everybody is looking at the last game in Kansas City, and on a tough, hot, warm, humid day coming off an emotional, very hard loss in the Open Cup to the Galaxy. We gave the game away at the end.
"I think, yes, some guys didn't necessarily put in the maximum effort in that particular game. I don't think I lost the locker room, but that's probably better for somebody else to say.
"You always have a few individuals that maybe don't respond as well as some other individuals do. That's common in any locker room."
Schmid also lamented the missed opportunity to coach Lodeiro, who arrived in Seattle at roughly the same time Schmid was clearing out of the team’s Starfire Sports complex. Schmid said he played a role in courting Lodeiro by communicating with Boca Juniors head coach Guilerrmo Barros Schelotto, won won an MLS Cup with Schmid in Columbus in 2008.
"I'm just disappointed that I didn't get a chance to coach Lodeiro," Schmid said. "Especially since I had talked to [Boca manager] Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and I obviously talked to Lodeiro at the beginning of the process to make sure he was interested in coming. That was disappointing."