October 29, 2019: One of the craziest days in Sounders FC history.
The Rave Green erased a one-goal deficit to upset LAFC 3-1 in the Western Conference Final, leaving the sold-out crowd at Banc of California Stadium stunned. An explosion of emotion on the field carried over into the locker room and then onto the late-night charter plane back to Seattle.
By the next day, though, Club Director of Goalkeeping Tom Dutra was nowhere to be found.
“I spent eight hours and hiked up the Yakima Canyon on my own float tube and then floated down and fished,” Dutra said. “Right after we beat LAFC, I was so jacked for the guys and everything else, but I also needed to come back down a little bit, too…Then the next day I am like ‘OK guys, I’m ready to go!’’
Such is the life of the Sounders’ long-time ‘keeper coach, whose off-day adventures have become stuff of legend around the club. Dutra, a 47-year-old Washington native, finds the smallest windows to the craziest adventures.
Dutra fishing the day after the 2019 MLS Western Conference Final | Courtesy of Tom Dutra
Hike Mt. Rainier? Did that in a single day last year.
Hike Mt. Rainier and ski down in a day? Happened in 2013.
Hike three volcanoes in four days? Knocked them out in 2014.
Of course, the offseason allows for more extended adventures – this past winter, he was in the Dolomites in the morning and then made a five-hour trek to see Juventus play later that day.
“You’re not there to grab strudel and a cup of coffee, but that’s what living is about,” Dutra said.
“Ultimately, we are always aiming for perfection, but it’s so hard to come by,” Dutra said. “Every good goalkeeper can get away from the game, it’s so important.”
Mountaineering. Skiing. Sometimes mountaineering up and skiing down. Fly fishing. Mountain biking. For Dutra, these adventurous escapes allow him fully to focus on his job.
“There are two things that are always constant, my wife knows this: my family is always on my mind and the goalkeepers are always on my mind,” said Dutra, who is a father of a teenage son and a teenage daughter. “Sometimes I just need space to think… I’m always constantly thinking about my goalkeepers, my kids, my wife, so it’s just a way for me to get away.”
Never get too high, never get too low. It’s a mantra that Dutra has instilled in his goalkeepers since taking the goalkeeping coach position ahead of the Sounders’ expansion season in 2009. A former professional goalkeeper in the USL A-League, Dutra was on the 1996 Seattle Sounders squad that won the championship.
Couple of Stefs and a Muse.— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) January 29, 2020
"Let's go win another one" 😤 pic.twitter.com/x7AhksB9ki
When injuries forced him to retire from the game, Dutra took up coaching. He couldn’t leave the position that had shaped him.
“I have so much passion for what I do because I know how much effort they put into it,” he said. “It’s such a joy to see.”
On the training ground and in every conversation, Dutra’s passion for the sport is palpable. He approaches his role with such an invigorating tenacity, there’s no wonder he needs to be refueled. Even if means disappearing into the wilderness for three days, like he did after the Sounders lost the 2017 MLS Cup.
“People ask me, you won in 2016 – ‘is that the pinnacle?,’” Dutra said. “And then we win at home in 2019 and they ask me, ‘is that the pinnacle?’ But honestly, I had so much fun today at training. I just love watching the guys train. Maybe later in life [I will reflect on it more], but I love watching all the guys through the years and seeing the work they put in.”
It’s hard to imagine a better situation for Dutra than where he currently is. Not only does he work for one of the most successful pro sports teams in the country, but he just so happens to be in a location that is heaven for outdoor enthusiasts. It’s a win-win.
“Like I always say: Get busy living. Why complain where you’re at when you’re breathing?”