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Coaching staff changes not expected to slow preseason progress

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Despite the turnover, Schmetzer expects Pineda to easily take over Ante Razov’s duties

Max Aquina

For the first in his coaching career, Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer is overseeing a full MLS preseason with the club. Having stepped up to the position during the middle of last season after the departure of Sigi Schmid, Schmetzer is having to make many choices that he never did while coaching at the USL level or as an assistant to Schmid.

“The layers of detail that go into it,” he said. “You have to think about everything from meals to travel to planning training and incorporating all of the responsibilities. It’s a lot more work.”

One of the most important and visible decisions for Schmetzer is setting up his coaching staff. Though most of the crew has stayed on for 2017, the departure of Ante Razov left a big gap in the team. But in came former Sounders midfielder Gonzalo Pineda, who arrived in Seattle to kick off his own coaching career.

Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey said Pineda is “an awesome addition to our coaching staff” and suggested Pineda would have a wide range of responsibilities. “I think to have a former Mexican international on our staff is great, not only for our first team but for our academy and for S2, and for our position in the community. We want to continue to attract young Latin players into our pipeline, and I think Gonzalo will help with that.”

On a more day-to-day basis, Schmetzer said his newest assistant will mostly take over Razov’s duties. A former MLS striker, Razov was brought in to work especially with the forwards and attacking players; even though Pineda was mostly a central midfielder in his career, he’ll likely be working with the same group. Schmetzer said that “Gonzo will work with the midfielders and the attackers, Djimi will work with the holding midfielders and defenders, while I’ll kind of fill in.” The assumption is that Pineda can slot in to work with that group immediately, though I imagine Schmetzer will be helping him get the hang of things in the early days.

It’s been mentioned quite a bit already, but Pineda’s influence on Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan can’t be understated. Roldan mentioned early in the 2016 season that Pineda was very significant and helpful in his development as a rookie. Lagerwey said he hopes to see Pineda have a similar influence on more new players in 2017, both rookies and veterans alike.

Many fans were hopeful that Zach Scott would take on a coaching role with the Sounders after his retirement in 2016. Even though that didn’t come to fruition, it doesn’t mean Scott isn’t around at all. Schmetzer said that, before the team’s first training session on Tuesday, he played a PowerPoint slideshow introducing players to new coaching and support staff. But the slideshow ended with a little surprise for players: video highlights of Scott.

“And then Zach came in from behind everybody, nobody knew he was coming, so that was pretty cool,” Schmetzer said. Scott reflected on his career and gave advice to the current squad, saying things like “look, you guys have to really grab onto this, your career is short, real jobs aren’t that fun, make sure you appreciate what your’e doing here.”

So while the way that the Sounders operate might not be the same as last season’s, Schmetzer clearly wants to have as smooth of a transition as possible. But he also knows that it’s not without work. The team can’t lose half its squad and sail right back into the MLS Cup final. “We all know that MLS is extremely brutal; the last two guys before us didn’t even make the playoffs. That is our challenge for this year, so in that way I’m thinking about things a little differently.”