On Friday night, Sigi Schmid’s family laid him to rest. They and his church welcomed the soccer community of the United States to join them through a livestream of the event. The speaker list was only a glimpse of his impact on our broad soccer community. It included Gary Wright (former Sounders & Seahawks executive), Dean Wurzberger (former University of Washington coach), and Jurgen Klinsmann (Germany, Bayern Munich, USA). There were six others, but that sampling alone shows Sigi’s impact just in Seattle.
today we pay our tributes to a legend. rip sigi and thank you for everything you did for soccer in america. pic.twitter.com/9HBHEJcYHu— Stu Holden (@stuholden) January 19, 2019
There can be no doubt that Sigi Schmid is an American legend. He is in the Hall of Fame. But Sigi is more than that, at least here in Seattle. He is the Sounders’ Chuck Knox, but with a better win percentage and more banners in the rafters. Sigi Schmid belongs in that hallowed Ring with Knox.
In the pantheon of pro greats for our regional teams, there are only four coaches* that reached the circle of greatness — Chuck Knox, Lou Pinella, Lenny Wilkens (also played here), Nate McMillan (also played here). Only one of those won a title here.
* there are also three broadcasters in that select company (Pete Gross, Dave Niehaus, Bob Blackburn).
Roughly 1% of players are in the Seahawks Ring of Honor, Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame, or Seattle Supersonics’ list of retired numbers. It may be too soon for an MLS-era player to join those ranks, but it is not too soon to honor Sigi.
Doing so would also establish the standards for entry to the Sounders Ring of Honor (or whatever it is called). Those standards should be based on the organizational values as professed by the Seattle Sounders — Excellence, Passion, Courage, Community.
Sigi Schmid displayed all of those in his near eight years here (roughly on par with the other coaches and their tenure).
It’s easy to review Sigi Schmid’s excellence. He won five of the Sounders’ six major trophies, including a run of three straight U.S. Open Cups from 2009 to 2011. His success in the Open Cup also includes runner-up in 2012. In 2014 he won the only Supporters’ Shield in the club’s history. In 2009 he was a single result away from another one, while coaching an expansion team.
Sigi’s excellence as a Sounder is not just about trophies and wins. Under his guidance, the club won a lot and also took a few minor trophies, including two Cascadia Cups. But more than that, Sigi’s players succeeded, too. His Sounders went on to take Newcomer of the Year, Keeper of the Year, Open Cup Player of the Tournament, Comeback Player of the Year, Defender of the Year, and multiple Players of the Month and Best XIs.
As a coach his players succeeded with Seattle, and those who left went on dreaming of coming back. For many Sounders their best seasons were here under Sigi Schmid. Coach Brian Schmetzer often says that Schmid was the right coach to launch the team. His excellence is demonstrated by the players he led, the success of his coaches after he left, the wins, and the majority of the banners hanging in CenturyLink Field.
Probably the best example of Sigi’s passion for the Seattle Sounders was demonstrated after he was let go. The team went on to win the MLS Cup that year. Sigi was one of the analysts that MLSSoccer.com brought to Toronto.
I was there with him, watching as Roman Torres banged in the decisive penalty, and looked over to see the strangest look of both agony and ecstasy on Sigi’s face. Ecstasy because this was the club he’d built, for their MLS years. Seattle was where he’d lived for a decade. His son still worked for the team. This was the club guided by his friend Brian Schmetzer, who’d known Sigi for decades and been his right-hand man for nearly 10 years. These were the players he’d drafted and signed and recruited and managed.
Agony because, as he looked at the fans... “*&%#,” Schmid said, and then again. There was unmistakeable redness rimming his eyes. “I wanted to give this to them. I wanted to give this to them so bad.” — Matt Doyle, MLS Soccer
He believed in the Seattle Sounders even after they let him go. That’s a man of passion. That’s a Sounder, once and always.
But the stories of Sigi’s passion for the organization also include his time here. There were his near tears when ECS raised “Tonight We Go All In” tifo against Portland. There was him meeting the fans, shaking hands after every match.
There is the indelible image of Sigi Schmid chewing on a different scarf every match, often a scarf that was gifted by a fan or a supporters’ group. He took those with him on the pitch so that we would know that he was one of us.
Sigi Schmid first displayed courage as a Sounder the day that he left a double-trophy winning Columbus Crew to join an expansion project. Sigi was comfortable in Columbus. He won the Supporters’ Shield handily. He won MLS Cup. His best player won MVP and his best defender won Defender of the Year. Sigi left that for an expansion side. The expansion teams prior to Seattle earned 0.83, 0.63 and 0.56 points per game. The idea that expansion teams could win anything barely existed until Sigi Schmid joined the Seattle Sounders. That was a tremendous display of courage.
He took a legacy and risked it for Seattle. It paid off, but without his time in Seattle, Sigi Schmid is merely a good MLS coach. Because he risked it all to join us — and succeed — he became an American legend.
Quietly active in the community, Sigi Schmid exemplified the efforts in the community that are expected of a Sounder. He was out among us, making the world better not just for soccer players, but for all residents of Puget Sound.
Sigi’s participation in the HeartRestart program may have been sadly prophetic. Schmid went to a local Boys & Girls Club, where AEDs were installed and he helped the kids learn cardio activities.
His participation in Make-A-Wish events, Kick Childhood Cancer and the like were the most visible. Electron Boy, Xander Bailey and Will Daniel are members of the Seattle Sounders community because of Sigi Schmid and the rest of the team. Their hopes and dreams became our hopes and dreams. Daniel, in particular, became one of us because of Sigi.
It doesn’t take a press release to make our community better. There are simple acts that anyone can undertake every day in order to be a participant and a person of the Sound. This was Sigi; even as he wintered (for a couple days) in SoCal, his heart was here. He became one of us and he made us better.
It is because of Sigi Schmid’s excellence, passion, courage and community displayed as a Sounder that his name belongs among the greats that have put their work in at CenturyLink Field and/or the KingDome. Sigi is on par with Knox, Pinella, Wilkens and McMillan. He is a Sounder and one of our legends.
There is no better test case for the first Sounders name to be raised — he exemplifies the Sounders, and Seattle. Sigi Schmid wasn’t just a great coach, but a coach that the people of our city, our region, and even our nation recognize.
Raise Schmid’s name along the east ring in CenturyLink Field. Make our history, part of our legend.