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Gonzalo Pineda will serve as head coach against Eintracht Frankfurt

Brian Schmetzer is at a coaching seminar this weekend and put Pineda in charge in his absence.

Gallery Photo: Sounders vs. Earthquakes: Photos

TUKWILA, Wash. — When Seattle Sounders assistant coach Gonzalo Pineda was first told by his boss, head coach Brian Schmetzer, that he was going to be leading the team out in this weekend’s friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt, Pineda thought it was a prank. “At the very beginning, I thought he was joking with me, he was messing with me.”

He wasn’t. Schmetzer is gone this week for a U.S. Soccer coaching course in Nashville, Tenn., and he charged Pineda with running training sessions and leading the team on Saturday. Pineda said Schmetzer was very supportive: “He was really nice with me, saying you’re going to be there, you’re going to do okay. He’s helping me every day.”

Pineda was quite humble in his first media scrum at the temporary helm, just like he was as a player in Seattle. He downplayed the length of his task, saying “it’s just for two days and after that I’m coming back to the same as usual.” He stressed that it’s business as usual at Starfire this week, and that he intends to keep things running smoothly in Schmetzer’s absence. “Not at all, it’s almost the same. We are with Brian every day, so it’s the same with me.”

Even though this is just Pineda’s first post-playing career coaching job, it says a lot about him and how he’s impressed Schmetzer that he’s being charged with such a role after only a few months with the team. Pineda said this means it’s a huge confidence booster for him, and he’s constantly trying to make sure he’s doing everything right. “I’m very confident because he gave me the opportunity and I’m calling him every five minutes and he’s okay with that. I’m super happy to be in that position.”

This also says a lot about Schmetzer, that he can identify talent and hard work in a guy like Pineda, and that he can inspire confidence in even the greenest of rookie coaches. According to Pineda, Schmetzer often asks his assistants for advice on the team — and actually adheres to it. “[Schmetzer] takes care of our opinion, always. At the end it’s his decision, but he’s really good at management of the coaching staff, and I think we are more than grateful to him because he’s always asking for questions about the team and sometimes he takes that into consideration.”

While Pineda has a lot of praise for Schmetzer and what he’s done for him as a coach so far, Pineda said his coaching philosophy is drawn from many sources. He said he often takes bits and pieces from the coaches he played for in Mexico, like Hugo Sanchez and Juan Carlos Osorio. “I try to manage a little bit like the best part of each coach and try to do the same here.”

As for this weekend’s match, Pineda has no plans to deviate too much from how the Sounders usually prepare and play, except that the personnel will largely be made up of players that don’t often see the pitch — not that the team is exactly spilling over with such players at the moment. “It’s a good opportunity to see different players too, a good opportunity for their development, and a good opportunity to improve a little bit on the things we want to improve on.” He put extra emphasis on defense and attacking movements, hoping that the team can all get on the same page in these areas for the second half of the MLS season. Pineda also praised the chance for the team (and him) to play against a club from a top league, “it’s going to be a really good game against a great Bundesliga team from one of the top three leagues in the world.”

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