When a team wins a big championship - like, say the MLS Cup - most wouldn’t begrudge a coach’s inclination to absorb the accolades and praise. A lot of coaches might not actively express pride in the work they’ve accomplished, but they don’t tend to reject it. Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer is not like a lot of coaches.
Instead of riding all the way through Tuesday’s MLS Cup celebratory parade on a trolley with the players and staff, Schmetzer chose instead to march with the fans. Why? “I like being with the fans, I’m a fan,” Schmetzer said. “I was a fan for a long time, so it was natural.”
Having been present for some of the greatest moments in Seattle soccer history, Schmetzer had expectations in his mind about what Tuesday’s parade might look like. But those expectations were blown out of the water by the city’s turnout. “It was more than what I imagined, there were a lot of people out on the streets of Seattle celebrating those guys up there. I was overwhelmed, I was impressed, I was very thankful to be a Sounder fan today.”
But the soccer community that Schmetzer knows well also rallied around him, especially coaches and players from years past, before MLS and CenturyLink Field and a Cup final in Toronto. The rally at the end of Tuesday’s parade was held in the shadow of Memorial Stadium, where it all began for Schmetzer. Staying true and remembering the history of soccer in Seattle is very important to Schmetzer, and he was happy to see that some of the players he admired and played with back in the day were still around to celebrate with him now. “Lots of people stayed in the community and are part of the fabric of the soccer community. For me, that’s very important.”
Just as he chooses to focus on the fans in a parade rather than himself, Schmetzer consistently shifts praise to the players rather than himself. And lately, there’s been a lot of praise. The turnaround of the Sounders’ 2016 season under his watch was incredible, but he often refuses to take much of the credit. “I would rather the focus be on the team... They’re the ones that deserve it, they’re the ones that do the hard work.”
Schmetzer chose to keep the rest of the coaching staff after he took over for Sigi Schmid earlier this season, a decision that he seems pretty happy with. He praised all of his assistants, again choosing to focus on those around him rather than himself and his own hard work. “The staff, Tommy, Ante, Djimi, Dave, they did a really good job helping us devise the game plans for each particular match,” Schmetzer said, “and we were fortunate to make the playoffs and get to this.”
When asked about some of the more important things to him today, Schmetzer focused on history again - saying that he “loved” having three members of the original Sounders MLS team there to win the Cup and celebrate with him. Brad Evans and Osvaldo Alonso have been around since the very first kick of the team’s very first game, but Zach Scott has been around even longer than that. Scott’s career in Seattle goes even further back than the other two. Schmetzer was ecstatic for his longest-tenured player, saying that “I couldn’t have scripted a better story for all of you reporters to have Zach Scott end his career with an MLS Championship. I couldn’t have scripted a better ending.”
Even though the celebrations had to end, Schmetzer said that he wanted to really enjoy the day and what the city of Seattle did before getting back to work. “This was tremendous, I don’t know if we’ll ever see anything like this ever again.” As for what all of this means—the celebrations, the Cup, the amazing turnout—Schmetzer paused and took a short look around at the fans still gathered at the Seattle Center. “It’s a testament to this city; I think this city is a decent sports town. I think this crowd here proves that it’s a good sports town.”