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The hard truth in Seattle: Sigi Schmid is almost certainly gone without a big series reversal

Nov 4, 2013, 8:15 PM EDT

Sigi Schmid

Sigi Schmid is one of American soccer’s real success stories, a self-made coaching figure who made his way up from college coaching ranks into MLS, starting a neat little collection of MLS Cups, Supporters Shield trophies and U.S. Open Cup crowns upon arrival into domestic soccer’s top tier.

And he’s about to lose his job.

Maybe, that is. There are two big caveats here, starting with the fact that Seattle is only “mostly dead,” which, as we know, is “slightly alive.” So, the Sigi Sounders are not out of the playoffs just yet. His Sounders are certainly half a chalk outline right now, trailing Portland by a goal and staring at the tough road leg in this home-and-away conference semifinal. But teams can and have come back in these aggregate goals MLS series following a bummer loss at home; teams that lost the opening leg at home are 3-for-11 in manufacturing a memorable rally.

The other caveat is that fans and media won’t make this choice. That’s on owner Joe Roth and on GM and minority owner Adrian Hanauer, along with the Sounders’ big cast of very serious, buttoned up, corporate types.

But is there really any other outcome here? ESPN’s Adrian Healey and I talked about it Sunday, just hours after the tough loss to Portland. He agreed that Schmid was highly unlikely to survive a series loss here.

Indeed, it seems so unlikely that Schmid could survive the weight of the October collapse, one now appearing to bleed into November, if Schmid cannot scare up a massive result in Portland, where the Sounders must overcome a 2-1 deficit when the teams clash at Jeld-Wen on Thursday.

(MORE: What we learned from Portland’s win at Seattle)

Not at a club of such big ambition. Not at a club with more fans in the stands than at two or three other MLS grounds combined on most weekends.

Quick review of the facts:

Seattle Sounders FC remains on the hunt for meaningful post-season success. The Sounders did get past last week’s elimination match against Colorado, which is something. Still, the lack of larger playoff success looks like the really big pole that the sputtering Schmid mobile is likely to smash into.

The history of making hay with big signings is sketchy at very best. The relative success around CenturyLink of DPs Freddie Ljungberg, Fredy Montero, Alvaro Fernandez, Blaise Nkufo and Mauro Rosales (that’s not mentioning Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins out of the current crop) is all up for big debate. At best.

The October fade was a horrible sight for Sounders fans, who had gotten their hopes up thanks to the summer surge, one that was punctuated by Clint Dempsey’s hardy and hopeful arrival.

source:  If this conference semifinal cannot be overturned, it’s a dreaded double whammy. Because it’s against Portland, the rival to top all rivalries in MLS. It’s already a scab to be picked at; Joshua Mayers’ good research reveals that Portland’s weekend win was that organization’s first victory in a competitive match in Seattle since 2005.  Yeah, that’s gonna leave a mark.

Finally, there’s this: Seattle soccer made a lot of noise about the Galaxy’s starry alignment of soccer luminaries, the highly recognized likes of Landon Donovan, David Beckham and Robbie Keane. When would the Sounders get their bite off the soccer icon apple?

Well, here’s Dempsey now … and how ‘bout them apples?

His arrival removed the last, uh … what word can we use here other than “excuse?”  Let’s go with “obstacle.”  Either way, stamp it with “removed!”

Not all of this is Schmid’s fault necessarily. But it’s a case where the negative weight of it all will almost certainly reach critical mass. The call for change will create its own momentum, and it just seems so painfully unlikely that Seattle’s only coach (in MLS soccer that is) will survive.

(MORE: Schmid sounded a bit defensive near season’s end)

  1. ukedad - Nov 4, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    Sounders beat RSL last year to advance to the Western Conference Finals

    • churdus - Nov 4, 2013 at 9:01 PM

      We did, but scored only one goal late in the second leg, then got romped by LA. Playoff history is really poor; Sigi just doesn’t seem to be able to find the correct strategy in the big games.

      • larochechris - Nov 5, 2013 at 2:14 PM

        And, as you may remember, Sounders rallied hard and were on the way to defeating LA in the second leg until a controversial handball gave LA a goal, derailed Sounders’ momentum. Yes, there is a pattern with the Sounders in high-stakes games, they perform poorly in the first one, and stronger in the second, sometimes enough so to win and move on to the next round, some times not.

      • charliej11 - Nov 6, 2013 at 8:13 AM

        The.Sounders played well when LA tried to sit on a 3 (?) goal lead…I was there, but that is what you want out of your coach….your team can keep possession and your team not be out coached when down 3-0 ?

  2. wwsiralexd - Nov 4, 2013 at 11:02 PM

    He will a job with another MLS team. Just a recycling of mediocre coaches.

    • charliej11 - Nov 5, 2013 at 2:01 PM

      I actually don’t want Sigi as a coach, but he is not mediocre.

  3. mkbryant3 - Nov 4, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    Can’t see him surviving unless he wins the cup. Could Columbus be waiting for the inevitable?

    • tylerbetts - Nov 5, 2013 at 10:00 AM

      Doubtful. Columbus wants to make a decision this week, which means they are probably already negotiating with their top choice on terms of the contact.

      I’d welcome Sigi back to Columbus. But I don’t think that’s the direction ownership should go.

      • mikeevergreen - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:36 PM

        Gregg Berhalter just signed in Columbus.

  4. rca26 - Nov 5, 2013 at 2:27 AM

    I don’t see him coming back stateside right away, but if there’s an MLS franchise with the money and prestige to get Bob Bradley’s attention…

    Not that I necessarily expect money and prestige to be Bob Bradley’s motivators, either, for that matter.

  5. mdac1012 - Nov 5, 2013 at 9:35 AM

    If Sigi goes, I say Seattle makes a hard press for Bradley, if he is available. Seattle “ownership” is looking to do big things, this is a win now team and Bradley is a win now coach. Unless Bradley is holding out hopes of getting a job in Europe, living in the Pacific Northwest looks like a nice alternative after the chaos of living in Egypt.

  6. redstarsanjose - Nov 5, 2013 at 10:57 AM

    As much as I like what Mark Watson has done with his time here in SJ, he has that pesky ‘interim’ label. Sigi could come manage the Quakes. Weirder things have happened. Frank managed the Galaxy (into the ground, on purpose = payback for Lalas being assigned by AEG as our GM in the mid-Naughties to dismantle the best side MLS ever had.) New stadium in two season’s time as well. Sigi would enjoy winning more inevitable MLS Cups. He’d like the Bay Area as well.

    Weirder things HAVE happened.

  7. perrinbar - Nov 5, 2013 at 11:14 AM

    If they fire him, I have to say it would be a bad call. This season has been all sorts of snake bitten, and that’s a poor, poor reason for getting rid of a coach.

    • charliej11 - Nov 5, 2013 at 2:06 PM

      And 2009 ? 2010 ? 2011 ? 2012 ?

      They have money, so they are going to make the playoffs. It is parity league, so it will be close to whoever finishes with the best record.

      If that is good enough, keep him. If not, he has to be held accountable, I would take his team to win the MLS Cup, or be in the running almost every year he was here…..but they were not in the running….at all. Losing to Portland wasn’t a surprise. Not scoring and losing to Houston, SLC, LA were not either. I predicted all of them. We just were not good enough, with very good players too.

      Who do you blame ? I blame Sigi.

      • larochechris - Nov 5, 2013 at 2:20 PM

        3 Open Cups, 3.5 players on the USNMT -2.5 of whom he coached onto the squad-, first MLS team to knock a Mexican team out of the CCL… but yeah, he hasn’t won the MLS title of Supporter’s Shield so we should dump him.

      • charliej11 - Nov 6, 2013 at 8:15 AM

        Isn’t that the point ? 3,5 guys on the Nat team and he still can’t beat the top teams…usually outcoached badly.

        Ps more than 3.5 that is just the US Nat team.

  8. nealrowland - Nov 5, 2013 at 11:41 AM

    Seems a bit rash to fire a coach that took the team to the playoffs every single year he has been in charge. When coaches are last in the league and keep their coach, why get rid of one a the better coaches simply because he does not win this playoff series against a higher seed?

    • danielofthedale - Nov 5, 2013 at 12:28 PM

      It the fact that his playoff record with the team is pretty awful. If you think he can’t g
      Lead you any farther and you think there is a person who can lead the team farther they should make the change.

    • mlsconvert88888 - Nov 5, 2013 at 12:38 PM

      This is my feeling exactly. I think Seattle fans have gotten used to the way they churn through DP’s looking for success, and now they want to churn through their very successful coach, in the hopes that it will magically work.
      But hey, maybe they fire Sigi and the sounders will finally have a losing season and give their fans some perspective on the matter.

      • charliej11 - Nov 5, 2013 at 2:07 PM

        Read my above comment. They have the most money, so they will be the best players out there…and they are still not in the running to win it all. Why ?

      • gra42 - Nov 9, 2013 at 10:23 PM

        @ Charlie, wherever this quote ends up: Yeah I think he’s at his plateau, slightly below Kinnear and a couple of others. Never a bad coach, just not MLS cup caliber.

  9. drewvt6 - Nov 5, 2013 at 12:37 PM

    Any coach with this attacking triumvirate who doesn’t win the cup will get canned. Seattle set their expectation bar high, created a NY Yankees/Anaheim Angels scenario where they can’t really succeed despite the highest overall FIFA2014 skill rating. In the off season, one of ObafemiMartins/EddieJohnson is gone. That’s the only way this team can go forward. My bet is on Martins as EJ will take a much lower paycheck to keep happy.

    • rodmacneil - Nov 5, 2013 at 1:15 PM

      But he has NOT had that trio available to play together! Between injuries & national team call-ups, Dempsey/Oba/EJ have play 15 minutes together. 15! Dempsey & Oba have played 68 minutes together, and have started ZERO times together. EJ & Oba have played about 200 minutes together, including 2 starts. For the most part, Sigi has only had one of the three available at any given time. It’s much easier for defenses when there’s only one legit scoring threat. How in the world can you hold him responsible for not getting more production of out them. They simply haven’t been able to get on the field. It’s been like that all year for Seattle, at every position. Sigi hasn’t had the option of fielding consistent lineups because the injuries and absences have been constant and extreme.

      • charliej11 - Nov 5, 2013 at 2:08 PM

        And 2009 ? 2010, 2011, 2012 ?

      • churdus - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:53 PM

        In a world where coaches are taken out with the trash, I wouldn’t mind giving him another year to coach Dempsey, Oba, etc. His playoff record speaks for itself though and he’s running out of chances…

      • gra42 - Nov 9, 2013 at 10:26 PM

        I’m not in love with Eddie Johnson. I think he’s one of those players who is easy for a defender to take from one side, so they just sit on the other one. He hasn’t been the same athlete since his injury all those years ago. He’s a better player I’m sure in terms of positioning and reading the field than he was when he was 20, but,..

  10. larochechris - Nov 5, 2013 at 2:42 PM

    I’m so sick of the ‘dump Sigi’ murmurs, I wrote an entire article on it.
    In summary: those wanting to can Sigi if he doesn’t win the title are a bunch of spoiled brats with no sense of reality or perspective.

    • charliej11 - Nov 6, 2013 at 8:26 AM

      Once again you fail to bring up that Sigi has the most talent at his disposal. Seattle has ZERO money issues, so while 5 straight playoff years is great…it really should be expected…and not just because we as fans are spoiled brats…spoiled yes, lucky actually…brats no.

      • mikeevergreen - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:39 PM

        Sigi DOESN’T have the most talent at his disposal, Bruce Arena does. Big difference.

  11. bulldogslc - Nov 5, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    This is what happens when the FO spits out a ton of money on big time players and they don’t improve immediate results. The coach will be the scapegoat every time.

  12. talgrath - Nov 5, 2013 at 3:18 PM

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it here again, I think Schmid has to win at least the Western Conference to have a chance to keep his job; anything less is going to be a disappointed for ownership very motivated to win. I don’t think that if Schmid doesn’t win and advance to the next step the Sounders will fire him the next day (like Klopas, for example), but I think the search would begin the next day for a replacement and I think they could find someone. I like Schmid, I really do, but these bizarre swoons throughout the seasons he has been coach really make it hard to see a reason to keep him on as a coach, especially given all the talent at his disposal.

  13. indypaul - Nov 5, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    I don’t think you can blame it all on Sigi.

    Here is the problem with MLS seasons. They bring in big signings in the middle of the season and it screws with the chemistry of the their teams. It happened when Chicago brought in Brian McBride in the middle of the season. Blanco was the big dog and they brought another big dog into the team. It happened in New York with Thierry Henry and it even happened to David Beckham in Los Angeles. It happened to Tim Cahill too. Look at what he has done this year.

    They did not make the impact everyone thought they would make.

    Also, Dempsey’s arrival is screwing with the team chemistry. Lamar Neagle is a shadow of what he was doing before Dempsey’s arrival. He is not the same player. Chances he was hitting before Dempsey, he is no longer hitting.

    I think the loss of Martins over the period that they were losing did not help either. He worked well with Neagle.

    There is just so much more to what is happening in Seattle than Sigi.

    I will concede it is his responsibility to manage it. Something happened because the team seemed to lose motivation after Dempsey arrived.

    • mikeevergreen - Nov 6, 2013 at 12:42 PM

      New England, Houston, or Columbus would have been a better place for Dempsey. All three were having varying degrees of trouble scoring goals consistently before midseason.

  14. ukedad - Nov 5, 2013 at 8:39 PM

    Thanks for correcting the article you should make a note it though rather than leave my comment hanging out there without context.

  15. tcabanting - Nov 6, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    Keep it local, I think Sigi can stay. But, Schmetzer is up next plus they have unlimited gear for the players at Sporthaus. Then you have the Henderson’s in line after that. To be honest I would love to see Uncle Nubby (Cliff McCrath) on the sidelines first. Bring back some of that SPU magic! I think he’s been involved with NW soccer for at least half the fans in the stands at some point good PR move.

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