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Sigi’s legacy lives on at MLS Cup 2020

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The legendary head coach’s DNA runs through both franchises.

MLS: New York Red Bulls at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

You probably don’t need to be reminded how important Sigi Schmid is to the Seattle Sounders. The winningest coach in MLS regular season history brought so much success to Seattle during his seven and a half seasons here. Before that, of course, Sigi had a dominant reign with the Columbus Crew. His influence extended far beyond the field of play and his spirit lives on within both franchises today. That spirit will certainly be felt on Saturday during the MLS Cup Final.

Brian Schmetzer, the current Sounders head coach, spent seven years as Sigi’s right-hand man in Seattle before taking over during the 2016 season. “I love that he’s been a part of both franchises. I’m sad that he’s not here to witness this,” Schmetzer said on Wednesday during his press conference.

We’re having a lot of discussions this week about the “D-word,” as Brian puts it. But we’re not here without what Sigi did for Seattle. He instilled a culture of winning that carries through to the current team. If it hadn’t been for Sigi, who knows what the Sounders would look like today.

There was much made about the decision Jordan Morris made in 2016 to sign with Seattle. So much external pressure to go abroad to test himself, but ultimately he decided to stay with his hometown team. During Thursday’s press conference, Morris credited Sigi for his decision.

“I can’t really say enough about Sigi and his impact in my career and my life.” Morris said to the media. “He always believed in me... Sigi always recognized me when I was in the academy. He was a big reason that I wanted to come and play in Seattle.”

We’ll always owe a lot to Sigi here in Seattle, but Columbus is in the same boat. He spent three years with the Crew before coming to Seattle, helping them win the Supporters’ Shield and their lone MLS Cup. Mapfre Stadium is due for its farewell soon, but it’ll always be the house that Sigi built.

Just like in Seattle, Sigi’s influence obviously has been felt with the Crew’s success, but also with their head coach. You may remember Caleb Porter from his time with a certain Sounders’ rival. At the time, Sigi was seen as the old head in MLS. Sigi’s team played a classic 4-4-2 and PorterBall was supposed to revolutionize Major League Soccer. Porter’s naivety caught him out a few times, and you have to wonder if his evolution into a more pragmatic coach was inspired by Sigi’s approach to the game.

“You don’t forget legends,” said Porter. “You don’t forget people, pioneers that have paved the way for you and that’s something that I always am mindful of and I think about.”

Porter certainly feels much more comfortable now to give Sigi credit for influencing his game.

“When you look at 2008, that’s a season that’s talked about, that’s celebrated,” Porter said. “I think it’s been an inspiration for our group this year, and certainly it would be meaningful with Sigi being the coach of that 2008 team.”

Whatever happens on Saturday, we know Sigi will be watching. We know that his spirit will live both on the pitch and off it.