MLS Soccer

Schmetzer leading Sounders in coach Schmid’s absence

Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid remained away from the club’s training session Tuesday, three days after missing the MLS match with Toronto because of an undisclosed illness.

“There are medical privacy issues around this stuff when it’s health related,” general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “My answer has to be that Sigi will address this if he chooses to. We are hopeful that he will be back, and again, there’s no pressure. It’s when he feels good, when he’s healthy, then he’ll come back. That’s what we’re hoping for, that he comes back 100 percent and happy and everything in order.”

Club officials continued to express confidence that Schmid will return this week, perhaps Thursday, when the club reconvenes after an off day.

Until then, the top duties have been assumed by Brian Schmetzer, formerly coach of the Sounders’ old USL team and Schmid’s first assistant since Sounders FC’s 2009 MLS expansion season.

“Brian’s very well prepared, and in some respects has waited a long time for this moment, and I think he’s more than ready to fill in as long as we need him to,” Lagerwey said. “Obviously he’s been a head coach before and is experienced with this. I asked him if he needed any help from me, and he said ‘The on-the-field stuff, I got that, I’ll take care of that.’ He said, ‘I might need a little practice for some of the off-the-field stuff.’”

Schmetzer said he and Schmid have remained in daily contact and share similar soccer philosophies.

“We’re both German,” he said. “Being around Sigi for a long time, I’ve certainly learned a lot. I have my own ideas. We’re pretty compatible. We’ve won a lot of games together. There’s not a massive change when I take training. … It’s just subtle changes based on the differences that Sigi and I have — but they’re small.”

A prime tactical decision now confronting the Sounders is a welcome one: how to mesh their returning talent on the pitch.

The 2-1 win over Toronto marked the first time that designated players Clint Dempsey, Obafemi Martins and Nelson Valdez appeared together. All are listed as forwards, but when Valdez joined starters Dempsey and Martins in the 62nd minute, he operated mostly in the outside midfield spot of Lamar Neagle, the forward/midfielder he replaced.

Schmetzer indicated he and the club might be no closer to cementing the trio into a permanent formation.

“We haven’t solved that yet,” he said. “… There’s no set way that those guys are going to play — here, here and here. They’re too good for that. I mean, who am I to tell those three guys this is what to do offensively? I mean, really.”

Schmetzer seems keenly aware that he is presiding over the kind of players he could only dream of while coaching the USL Sounders from 2002-2008. And while he expressed his hope for Schmid’s quick return, he admits he’s enjoying handling such talent for now.

“Sure, it’s fun to train with the guys,” he said. “Look, if you asked me in 2002 if I ever would have had a chance to coach arguably the best player that the U.S. has ever produced, I’d say you guys are crazy. If you guys would have asked me in 2002 that I would have been able to coach world-class players — Oba, (Andreas) Ivanschitz, Valdez — I would have said you guys are all crazy. So yes, it’s fun.”

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808


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