At the end of every season, Seattle Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid reminds his players that the same group will never be together again.
The breaking up of the 2014 Sounders began Thursday as the club declined options on eight players.
However, Sounders FC also extended its commitment to Schmid, signing him to a new contract that will have the 2014 MLS coach-of-the-year runner-up return for a seventh season in Seattle and apparently well beyond that.
“It’s very hard to take a good team and make it a special team, and I think that takes a really special coaching year and performance to do that,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “So as a consequence of that, I am very excited and happy today to announce that we have signed a multiyear deal with Sigi. Sigi will be around for the foreseeable future.”
The move was no surprise after a franchise-best 20-10-4 season that saw the Sounders win the Supporters’ Shield, the U.S. Open Cup and advance to the Western Conference playoff final. Hanauer and majority owner Joe Roth already had expressed their desire to keep their coach.
Schmid wanted that, too.
“I haven’t regretted a moment that I’ve been here,” he said. “I’m sure at times the fans have, but I haven’t regretted a moment. … There’s nothing that I want to do more than to bring an MLS Cup to this city and to these fans. And to know that I’ve got the opportunity to continue to try and do that is something that I’m excited about.”
However, some players got more disappointing news as the Sounders declined options on goalkeepers Marcus Hahnemann and Josh Ford, defenders Djimi Traoré and Onyekachi Apam and forwards Tristan Bowen, Sean Okoli, Cam Weaver and Eriq Zavaleta. It also was announced that defender Jalil Anibaba is out of contract.
Schmid and Hanauer noted some of these players could still return. Ford and Okoli were mentioned as developing players who could benefit from minutes with the new Sounders 2 USL-Pro team. Schmid mentioned Anibaba among the candidates to fill the right back spot that will be vacated with DeAndre Yedlin’s expected departure to Tottenham of the English Premier League later this month.
Hanauer said Traoré, 34, is debating whether to continue his playing career, but that if he retires the Sounders would like to find a way for him to remain with the organization, perhaps eventually in coaching.
Hanauer also acknowledged Hahnemann’s social-media announcement of his plans to retire, and said the club plans to honor his contributions.
The moves leave 23 players on the current roster: goalkeeper Stefan Frei; defenders Leo Gonzalez, Damion Lowe, Chad Marshall, Jimmy Ockford, Dylan Remick, Zach Scott and Yedlin; midfielders Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Aaron Kovar, Lamar Neagle, Andy Rose, Micheal Azira, Marco Pappa, Gonzalo Pineda and Aaron Long; and forwards Chad Barrett, Kenny Cooper, Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins, Kevin Parsemain and Victor Mansaray.
However, Schmid said that Scott, 34, is facing offseason foot surgery and also is considering retirement.
Another one or two of those players also could be lost next week in the expansion draft that will stock the new franchises in Orlando and New York City.
Martins’ tightly angled chip in Week 11 against San Jose was selected Thursday as MLS goal of the year, as determined by fan vote. Meanwhile, the Sounders were on the other end of the MLS save of the year, recorded by New York goalkeeper Luis Robles who turned away a shot by Pappa and a rebounded header by Dempsey. … Yedlin, 21, was honored Thursday as U.S. Soccer young male athlete of the year. The Sounders’ homegrown defender and O’Dea graduate earned 10 caps with the national team, including three at the FIFA World Cup. “It was a tremendous year for a lot of young players,” Yedlin said through a club press release. “And we all share the dream of continuing to have the opportunity to represent our country.”