Absent from celebration of the MLS Cup victory, they were a key part of bringing Seattle it’s first MLS Cup. December 10th, 2016 does not happen without our past — most notably Sigi Schmid — but there were many more that put in the hard work.
Darren Sawatzky, Dick McCormick, Shannon Murray, Billy Crook
A few of the original Sounders Academy staff are no longer with the organization. They’ve gone onto other things, but their students were on the pitch and benches at BMO Field. They helped bring us Jordan Morris, Aaron Kovar, Darwin Jones, and Victor Mansary — MLS Cup winners. They helped bring us Sean Okoli, Jordan Schweitzer, DeAndre Yedlin and about a dozen others who have played professional soccer around the world. Without the foundation laid by Sawatzky and the rest, there is no MLS Cup.
Steve Newman and the former NASL Sounders no longer with us
The Mercer Island high school soccer coach that worked with Morris passed away before Jordan turned pro. Newman, like so many in the Puget Sound’s soccer scene, was a former Sounder. There are many others that helped the boys in green whose souls were on the bench and in the stands when their Sounders won MLS Cup.
The list would be incredibly long, but a few need particular recognition as they helped the Sounders pull out of USL and into the heights of MLS - Roger Levesque, Taylor Graham, Chris Eylander, Ben Dragavon, Sebastien Le Toux, Sanna Nyassi and Zach Scott. Many of their cohorts that won titles in the A-League and USL are scattered around the state youth soccer ranks developing future players that will be Sounders, whether signed to contracts or not.
Kevin Calabro, Arlo White and Ross Fletcher
Back when few thought Seattle soccer could work the club hired KC. He lent them a certain gravitas, he lent us effort and the basketballization of the game. Arlo lent us a proper British presence, his heart and a willingness to host a Q&A for a blog in the basement of a bar. Ross continued White’s Britishisms, added alliteration and always had time for a beer with fans. Their voices are connected with every previous moment of Sounders greatness, but not with this one.
Frank MacDonald, Matt Gaschk and so many other front-office and back-office staffers
Way back in the day the club didn’t think it could sell 25,000 seats. They passed that number and then 30k, then 35k, then 40k and now they are expanding full season tickets to include the central east 300 level. If those sell, they can sell more. It took savvy PR, digital production, ticket sales, gameday operations. They move furniture, pack bags, schedule away trips. The back-office is full of people who will never get recognized formally, but they should. They are part of this Cup too.
His time here was unprecedented. He won five major trophies and the second most amount of games in the league from 2009 to his dismissal in July 2016. Everyone on the roster but Nicolas Lodeiro played under him at some point. As part of the talent committee (originally Sigi, Adrian and Chris) nearly every player acquired came across his desk.
Sigi was so successful that the only way he could satisfy some elements was by winning it all. In 2016 his rope ran out, but not the impact of his hire. Every member of the MLS Cup winning coaching staff was handpicked by Sigi. Brian Schmetzer was his First Assistant for seven-and-a-half years.
Whether the Sounders would win MLS Cup if Sigi stayed is now the subject of historical fiction. Whether Sounders FC make the playoffs eight straight seasons while winning 25% of seasonally-available major trophies (6 in 8 years) without Sigi is laughable. Only Bruce Arena comes close to those totals.
Sigi Schmid wasn’t on stage or in a trolley for Tuesday’s rally and parade. He should have been in everyone’s hearts and minds. Without Sigi Schmid’s engine launching the MLS Sounders they do not reach this greatness.
He has other Cups, but there is little doubt that this is the one he wanted more than any but his first. These were his friends, his players, his son and a fanbase that made him one of them, despite his SoCal roots. In a long-future history Sigi Schmid’s impact on the 2016 MLS Cup may be overlooked, as it was in formal situations after the win.
At some point, in some quiet time, I hope that Adrian, Joe and Drew visit Sigi and say a few simple words “Thank you, without you this never happens.”