Perhaps the thing that most endears Brian Schmetzer to the Seattle Sounders community — maybe even more than the winning — is his accessibility. The man doesn’t simply show up for fan events, he acts like he wants to be there. He doesn’t just say he considers himself a steward of the club, he lives that ethos. When Schmetzer says he’d be in the stands just like you if he weren’t on the sidelines, it’s without even a hint of irony.
I think that’s what made his interview with Sebastian Salazar following arguably the most impressive win of his coaching career so satisfying. When he answers the question “how are you feeling?” with “Feeling better than Bob,” he may as well have been all of us.
Schmetzer might have spent a good deal of the next week effectively apologizing for that line, but that doesn’t make it any less great. It also comes as no surprise that Sounder at Heart readers voted it the Moment of the Year with 50.5% of the vote. The next biggest vote-getters were Raúl Ruidíaz’s golazo vs. Atlanta United (12.5%), Jordan Morris’ season-opening brace (12.2%) and the silent Iron Front protest (7.9%).
Those other three moments were all special in their own rights. Ruidíaz’s goal came against an Atlanta United team and served as a reminder — following some struggles during the summer — that this team had the talent to play with anyone. Morris’ brace — which we debated swapping with his playoff hat trick — was essentially an announcement to the world that he wasn’t just back but that he might be better than ever. The Iron Front protest was a very different type of moment, but in its own way symbolized the season and many of the struggles we experienced as a fan base.
But, really, nothing was more fitting than Schmetzer’s postgame interview. Doubts have followed Schmetzer all along the way, starting the moment he got the job and definitely at various points during this season. He has mostly refrained from clapping back at his detractors, but after the display against “the best team in MLS history” who could blame him for feeling himself just a bit? Schmetzer usually keeps his emotions in check. He didn’t hold back this time. It was glorious to see and was made even better when cameras caught Bob Bradley seemingly exchanging frustrated words with Schmetzer after the interview.
No one deserved that moment more than Schmetzer. No one had doubted that the roster he had was talented enough to dismantle a team like LAFC. What people had doubted was Schmetzer’s ability to devise a game plan that could pull it off. Schmetzer’s team was unafraid in the attack and clinical in its defending. They pressed when they needed and sat deep when the situation demanded it. They kept players like Carlos Vela unbalanced and forced relatively inexperienced players like Eduard Atuesta into costly mistakes. They barely put a foot wrong all night.
We’d all be kidding ourselves if we allowed ourselves to believe that Schmetzer has convinced his most vocal critics that he’s actually a coaching a genius. But to those of us who have been a bit more appreciative of him from the very beginning, I think this was the evidence we needed to get us through some of the tough times. Schmetzer is a coach who knows who he is, who understands his limitations and isn’t afraid to surrounding himself with people who complement his weaknesses. We couldn’t be in better hands.