Brian Schmetzer sits down at his desk at Starfire, his window overlooking the quiet Duwamish amidst a day filled with some greys and blues. He sighs, exhausted after a week of travel and some less than stellar performances from his boys in the Rave Green.
Ring Ring. Ring Ring.
The hardline buried under a pile of gametapes and player reviews flashes to life.
Ring Ring. Ring Ring.
BS: Brian Schmetzer here, head coach of the Seattle Sounders.
DG: Hey Ryan, Don Garber here, commissioner of Major League Soccer, formerly an employee of the National Football League by way of the National Wheelchair Athletic Association. Pleasure to meet you over the phone today.
BS: Yeah, Don, we've met like a bunch of times.
DG: Glad to hear it!
BS: Okay. Listen, Don, now isn't really the best time --
DG: So listen Ryan, I just called to congratulate you on your last result. It was just wonderful. Absolutely spectacular.
BS: But we lost 3-0 to Sporting Kansas City. It was horrible. Plus, my name isn't Ryan. It's Brian.
DG: Pardon me?
BS: My name - it isn't Ryan. My name is Brian.
BS: No, Brian.
DG: Bry... Anne?
BS: Close enough. Anyway, we lost on Wednesday. Some guy we'd never heard of scored a hat trick against us in like 14 minutes. It was awful. So why are you congratulating me?
DG: I'm gonna be honest with you, Brain, it's time for the Sounders to be bad. You had your heyday, nothing came from it, and now we've got new teams from New York, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and uh, well, I guess Minnesota isn't a city, but you understand, yeah?
BS: We won the MLS Cup last season.
DG: Oh that was last year? Hmm. Well good for you. Listen. LA Galaxy got the memo. They're terrible this year. You and them went neck and neck for so many seasons, now it's getting boring. It's time for you to be bad. It's time for --
The conversation is interrupted by the sound of another phone picking up the line.
AH: Hi, Mod Pizza, this is Adrian Hanauer. I'd like one large pizza delivered to my office with alfredo sauce and pineapple and pepperoni and maybe some garlic dipping sauce on the side.
DG: Hello Adrian.
AH: Uh, hello Mod Pizza. Did you get my order?
DG: Adrian, this is Don Garber, the commissioner of Major League Soccer.
BS: Adrian we're on the phone right now.
AH: But what about my pizza?
DG: Uhh, sorry.
A heavy sigh comes through the phone and the extra line clicks dead.
BS: Sorry about that Mr. Garber. Adrian gets upset when he doesn't --
The extra line comes alive again, this time the conversation is interrupted by the repeated pressing of numbers on a phone. BEEP. BEEEEEP. BEEP.
BS: Adrian we're still here.
The extra line dies again. From his office Brian can hear the slamming of the phone and the unmistakable sounds of an office getting trashed. It's hard to make out what's being said throughout the shouting, but the word "pizza" is often heard.
BS: ...Adrian gets upset when he doesn't get his post-loss pizza.
DG: Pineapple on pizza is a crime against humanity.
BS: It's not that bad. If you contrast the saltiness of the pepperoni and cheese sauce with the sweetness of pineapple, it's actually pretty good. Sounds like a metaphor about our season so far.
DG: Do you know who doesn't get pineapple on their pizza? Roger Goodell. From what I've seen, he just gets the meat supreme. Sausage. Chicken. Pepperoni. Bacon.
DG: Ground Beef. Anchovies.
BS: Mr. Garber?
DG: Maybe even blood sausage or bratwurst or I dunno. Mushrooms perhaps?
BS: Excuse me, Don.
DG: Oh, sorry. Yes, what can I do you for?
BS: What are you talking about?
DG: The toppings Roger Goodell gets on his pizza. He's a great man. Powerful.
BS: Why are we talking about the NFL Commissioner?
DG: I dunno. I was just making conversation.
BS: But. Ugh. Okay. Why did you call me again?
DG: What? No. You called me!
BS: No. No, you clearly called me to congratulate me.
DG: Wait, who is this again?
BS: Brian! Brian Schmetzer!
BS: Oh my goodness. Listen. We're not losing on purpose. We're not playing poorly. We're trying to win every game but we've had a lot of circumstances surrounding us that have been unfortunate. Bad luck, bad finishing, injuries, lost of travel, inexperienced players. Did you know that we've already started four different right backs and only one of those four had ever played that position before? We're starting guys with injuries because we have nobody else to start. Plus the refereeing. Don, listen, you know I'd never say this publicly, but c'mon. The refereeing this year has been bizarre. It's ludicrous. How can you expect us to win games when we're playing against refs who've barely manned the center circle, who call the game completely differently every few minutes. One tackle is a foul but a much worse tackle isn't a foul but a much softer tackle is a yellow card but a much softer tackle isn't a foul but an even softer tackle is a penalty? I, ugh, I don't get it.
BS: So frustrating. It's like playing with one leg tied behind your back.
BS: Though that sounds pretty painful. I'm not sure if that's possible.
BS: Hello? Don?
BS: Of course. MLS won't ever do anything to fix the refereeing.
DG: Phew! Sorry about that, Ryan. All that talk about pizza got me hungry! I had to order me up a pie for myself.
BS: Yeah. No worries.
DG: So, what do you say you keep on losing, huh? For the good of the league?
BS: No, Don. We're never going to quit.
DG: Oh c'mon. If we want to be a top 5 league in the world, we need these new franchises to hit the ground running, to be competitive, to make deep playoffs runs from the very beginning. You know what I mean?
BS: Yeah, actually, I do, having done that exact thing for this league here in Seattle.
DG: Pardon me?
BS: As an expansion team we hit the ground running. We've been in the playoffs every year. We've won four US Open Cups. We won the Supporters' Shield. We won the MLS Cup. Here in Seattle the Sounders have a long history of success, we have a long history of being competitive. A few bad games won't change that, and we definitely will never cave into pressures to being bad. We'll adjust and we'll heal up, and we'll come back stronger than ever. Last season's second half run was not a fluke. With some players on the mend, we'll be seeing some lineup consistency soon, and you'll see.
DG: Uh huh, okay thanks for the call Ryan. Talk to you later now. Bye bye.
The other end clicks dead. Brian Schmetzer, sighs, shakes his head, and hangs up the receiver.
BS: What a mess.
From out of the office a shout emits.
AH: Hey Brian!
AH: Can I order my damn pizza now?
It's hard to get excited about matches against SKC.
And this lineup? Oof. We may be in over our heads.
This one might be a slugfest and not in the fun way.
Wait. We actually look good.
This half isn't that bad. We might just surprise everybody and get a result here.
Okay second half adjustments. Let's do this!
Not like that!
This is like two different teams!
SKC scored? Ugh. That really takes the wind out of this match.
Two goals now? We can come back from that. Three though?
Oh. Okay. I guess anybody can score hat tricks now.
I just, I dunno anymore.
Who's steering this thing anyway?
Abandon ship! Abandon ship!
The more I think about what's happening, the more my head starts hurting.
There's gotta be a way to find that winning form again.