In his end-of-season press conference, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid looked ahead to next year and cited among his goals the 2012 Supporters Shield.
For some coaches that might just be something you say: always aim high, and all that. I certainly remember Washington football coach Tyrone Willingham setting a Rose Bowl goal ... before his team went out to an 0-12 season.
But Schmid isn't that way. In the just-completed season he always cited the playoffs and MLS Cup as goals ... but not Supporters Shield. He lists it among the goals for the coming season because he believes the Sounders are ready to aim as high as the best regular-season record in MLS.
I asked him more about the goal this week, and as you can tell from the answer below, he gave it some thought before saying it:
If I come in to an expansion team and I say in our first year we want to win the Supporters Shield, is that really a realistic goal? Yeah, it’s always a goal. Every year it’s a goal. But for me to state that as a team goal, it’s like ‘Are you kidding me? OK, thanks coach.' It’s nice but we can’t get there. So it was OK, let’s make the playoffs, and we won the Open Cup.
And so the second year it was, hey, we want to be a little more solid. We’re in the Champions League. In the Champions League we want to do this, we want to do that. Obviously we didn’t do well in the champions league in year two, and we had to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps to get into the playoffs in year two.
But this year I think we sort of became more stable, and established ourselves. And with that stability and moving on in the Champions League and so forth, now I feel the Supporters Shield is an attainable goal. I think it is something that’s within our reach. We were only four points from it this year. So it’s something now, ‘Yeah, that’s an achievable goal.’
And when you look at it as a club within our league, there’s not that many things that we haven’t accomplished. … You want to be consistently there all the time. So for us, that’s why our goal now is Supporters Shield, that’s why our goal is MLS Cup and moving further. I think last year hurt, and some guys learned from it. … But this year I think the learning was better because of the poor performance we had at Salt Lake and the quality performance we had at home. And so the guys not only learned, ‘Geez, here we got destroyed because we didn’t do this,’ but also, ‘This is what it takes. This is what it takes to win.’ So I think they’ve got a better feeling now. And now you’ve got to have that hunger in your belly.
LA isn’t driven by Bruce Arena, just like we aren’t driven by me. They’re driven by Beckham, and they’re driven by Donovan, and those guys have great desire to win the Cup. Beckham has a great desire to win the Cup, and Donovan does as well because he hasn’t won it since 2005. So those are the guys who drive them, game after game. Those are the guys who, as the playoffs go, alter their games to do whatever it takes to win the game, and that’s what has to happen for us: Guys have to alter their game to do what’s needed to win. … You’ve got to have guys out there who say, ‘We are not going to lose. I don’t care. Get on my back. We are not going to lose.”