Schmid only recent expansion coach left
Of the four expansion teams to join Major League Soccer from 2009-11, only one retains its original coach: Seattle Sounders FC.
The Portland Timbers on Monday became the latest in that wave of coaching change by firing John Spencer, who went 16-22-13 over one and a half seasons. General manager Gavin Wilkinson was named interim coach.
Earlier this year, the Philadelphia Union fired coach Peter Nowak less than halfway through his third season. Last year, the Vancouver Whitecaps ditched original coach Teitur Thordarson after a dozen matches.
The lone survivor is Sigi Schmid, who says he appreciates the Sounders’ stability.
“Any coach isn’t a good coach for three months and then in three weeks becomes a bad coach,” Schmid said. “… At the end of the day (it’s) being able to stick to a plan, being able to have some consistency without complacency. I think if you become complacent, it’s not a good situation; and I don’t think we ever become complacent here. But having consistency in terms of a steady approach, having an idea of how we want to be and what we want to play and maintaining that in our DNA is really important.”
General manager Adrian Hanauer said experience has taught him that people work most efficiently in stable environments, and he strives for that in the Sounders organization: from the front office to the coaching staff to the player roster.
He said there is no predetermined protocol regarding how the organization would decide on a coaching change, but that the discussion would likely begin with him and majority owner Joe Roth.
Hanauer added there has been no need for such discussions regarding Schmid, who leads Major League Soccer with 164 career victories, is second with 19 postseason wins and has won MLS Cups with Los Angeles and Columbus. Schmid has led Seattle to the playoffs each of its first three seasons.
“We hired Sigi because we thought he was the best coach in Major League Soccer, and you don’t go from being the best coach in Major League Soccer to being a bad coach, even in a bad stretch,” Hanauer said. “There will come a day, whether he’s too old or goes a little crazy or, you know, something happens: he can’t relate to the players … something. But in terms of if all his facilities are there and he’s the same guy that he is today, he’s always going to be a good coach and will give us a chance to win a championship.”
Still, the Galaxy fired Schmid in 2004 despite his record, 79-53-32, and achievements. He was 1999 MLS Coach of the Year, led Los Angles to the 2001 U.S. Open and CONCACAF Champions cups and took the Galaxy to the 2002 MLS Cup title in its third final after winning that season’s Supporters’ Shield for having the league’s best record.
So, he remains aware that he lives life on a hot seat.
“I make the seat more hot,” he said. “My wife gets … upset with me because if we don’t win in two, three games I’m always saying, ‘Look, I could get fired the next game.’ (She says) ‘How can you talk like that?’ I go, ‘That’s the way I am. I never feel 100 percent secure. I always feel the bags are packed, and the exit’s there.’ And for me, I think that works because it keeps me motivated and it keeps me sharp.”
Schmid said he put that motivation to use during the Sounders’ nine-game winless streak, which ended Saturday on a 2-1 win over Colorado.
“When we really got in this streak we really had to break it down and analyze it and say ‘What do we need?’ ” he said. “The first thing we hit upon was we have to become tougher again; we have to become difficult; we’ve got to have our mentality. I kept saying we’ve got to get our mentality right and the soccer with catch up, and I think on Saturday night the soccer caught up a little bit. So now we’ve got to continue to work in that direction.”
The Sounders meet Chivas USA at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Starfire Sports Stadium in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal.
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