Sigi Schmid is an MLS coaching legend, but Tuesday’s news that he and the Seattle Sounders had mutually parted ways was, if anything, a bit overdue.
After making the playoffs in each of their first seven years in MLS, Seattle have been awful this year. They haven’t been able to hit the back of the net with any regularity, scoring just 20 goals (five of which came in one game) in their 20 matches, the third-lowest total in the league. Their results have taken a corresponding nosedive, with the Sounders’ 6-12-2 record putting them in ninth in the West – 10 points behind Vancouver for the conference’s final playoff spot.
The Sounders haven’t had a sustainable attacking system in years. They’re overly reliant on hopeful crosses and moments of individual brilliance from their high-priced attackers. That system worked just fine when they had Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins running together up top. Since the Nigerian left for China in February, however, Seattle have been exposed.
Losing Martins was a huge blow, and one that no one in Seattle should be criticized for. Martins wanted out; the Sounders’ hands were a bit tied. That it all went down weeks before the opener, leaving them with little time to add a replacement, was bad luck.
Still, Schmid didn’t have a Plan B. His best system in recent years seemed to be hero ball – find Oba and Deuce, then let them work their considerable magic. If one got hurt or skipped town, they’d be vulnerable. We’ve seen that in the first five months of the 2016 season.
Brian Schmetzer, a longtime assistant and former Sounders head coach in their USL days, will now get his bite at the big job – albeit on an interim basis, though team owner Adrian Hanauer said Tuesday not to anticipate any sudden change.
Hanauer also said he expects Schmetzer to coach Sounders for the remaining of this season
— Matt Pentz (@mattpentz) July 26, 2016
Beyond that, who Seattle brings in is anyone’s guess. Hanauer and Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey are bright, meticulous execs and Seattle are one of the most ambitious clubs in the league. I expect them to take their time with what should be a far-reaching search for the man they hope will bring Seattle the one trophy Schmid couldn’t win, MLS Cup.
Here are a few suitable candidates for a premier MLS opening:
A Seattle-native, Schmetzer is reportedly well-liked by the Sounders players and in the front office. He’s led the team to some trophies too, guiding the USL Sounders to a pair of titles before they made the move to MLS.
As Hanauer said on Tuesday, he’ll likely be the man to lead Seattle for the remainder of 2016. It looks like he has a major reinforcement on the way, with Uruguay national team attacking midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro reportedly arriving in the Emerald City on Tuesday. Even with the No. 10 in town, it’ll be a brutal road to drag the Sounders back into the playoffs. If Schmetzer can pull it off, he’d have a great, great shot to be back in 2017.
The former Chivas USA head coach didn’t have much success with the Goats, but that wasn’t really a surprise. Chivas were a complete mess by the time Fraser took over in 2011 – he doesn’t deserve too much of the blame for his poor record in his two years in charge in LA.
While his one stint as a head coach wasn’t anything to write home about, Fraser has had success as an assistant. He’s been a part of some of the best teams in club history in each of his stops as an assistant, working with new Orlando head man Jason Kreis and then-RSL GM Lagerwey to lead Salt Lake to the MLS Cup title in 2009, serving as Mike Petke’s lead assistant as the New York Red Bulls won their first-ever trophy in 2013 and helping Greg Vanney lead Toronto FC to their first playoff berth last year.
He’s still with Vanney in Toronto, but his connections to Lagerwey (he was a finalist for the RSL job that went to Jeff Cassar after Kreis left for New York City FC in December 2013) make the well-respected former MLS Defender of the Year a likely option for Seattle.
Yeah, the former US national team manager is off doing his thing in Europe with Ligue 2 club Le Havre, but Seattle would be silly to not at least give him a call. Bradley is one of America’s brightest tactical minds, knows how to deal with star players and seems to possess the same sort of maniacal drive we see week-in, week-out in his son, Michael. He seems to be pretty rooted in Europe, but Seattle are one of the two or three clubs in MLS with the resources, facilities and ambition capable of luring him home. I’d be shocked if they don’t at least kick the tires on the former Chicago, New York and Chivas manager.
The former MetroStars striker doesn’t have any experience managing at the top-level, but he’s had a good deal of success with the New York Cosmos, leading the team to the NASL Soccer Bowl title in 2013 and 2015. His name has popped up for MLS openings in the past, with the former Venezuelan international declining an interview for the Houston Dynamo job following the 2014 season. He knows the league well, his Cosmos play pretty soccer and, importantly, he’s managed stars, guiding former Spain internationals Raul and Marcos Senna during his time in New York. Hiring him might be a bit of a reach in the eyes of some in Seattle, but it’d be a very intriguing move.
The former Everton manager is out of work and has connections to the States, having provided studio coverage for ESPN during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, 2012 and 2016 European Championships and 2013 Confederations Cup. He had a rough go over the last two years, but his 2013-14 season – when he led Everton to a fifth-place EPL finish – was excellent.
If Seattle want to make a move for Martinez, it looks like they’ll have to move quickly. Hull City are reportedly targeting the Spaniard for their managerial vacancy, and this tweet from ESPN’s Taylor Twellman – who, it should be noted, worked with Martinez at the Euros – makes it seem like he could be headed for Atlanta:
@mconnolly10 let’s just say he better be a fan of Matt Ryan
— Taylor Twellman (@TaylorTwellman) July 26, 2016