The only head coach in the Sounders’ eight-year run in Major League Soccer, Sigi Schmid, was fired Tuesday after a 6-12-2 record, Seattle’s worst start to an MLS season. But the failure to reach the MLS Cup, much less win it, as did rival Portland in December, weighed heavily because the Sounders have the most popular and well-resourced team in the U.S. league.
Longtime assistant Brian Schmetzer, who goes back to the Sounders’ USL days, was named interim coach.
“Sigi Schmid has been an invaluable member of Sounders FC since the club’s MLS launch, leading our organization to numerous trophies and a consistent winning culture for seven seasons,” team owner Adrian Hanauer said in a club statement. “Sigi departs the club with our utmost respect and gratitude for his years of service. Ultimately the club and Sigi agreed that a change was needed at this time, but Sigi’s legacy will always be a part of our history. He has my sincere appreciation for all that he committed to our team and community.”
The listless Sounders were blown out Sunday in Kansas City, 3-0, leaving them ninth in the Western Conference with 20 points, an abrupt change for a team that has never missed the playoffs.
The Sounders have never found a coherent offense this season, seeming to vanish with the surprise preseason departure of Obafemi Martins to a stunning offer from the pro league in China.
“I want to thank Seattle Sounders FC for the opportunity to lead this club over the past eight years,” Schmid said in a statement, “with particular gratitude to Adrian Hanauer, Joe Roth and the rest of the club’s ownership group.
“I’d also like to thank my coaches and technical staff for the support they’ve given me, and most importantly I want to thank my players for their tremendous effort throughout the years. I’m proud of the success we’ve achieved in winning five major trophies in Seattle, qualifying for the postseason for seven straight seasons. My only disappointment is that we were unable to bring home an MLS Cup to our tremendous fans, who have always been supportive through good times and bad.”
Schmid, 63, came to Seattle from Columbus Crew SC in 2008 on the back of an MLS Cup title in Columbus. Schmid previously claimed the 2002 MLS Cup with the LA Galaxy, and overall his teams have captured 11 major titles.
A two-time MLS Coach of the Year and recent National Soccer Hall of Fame inductee, Schmid just crossed the 500 regular-season MLS match threshold in June of 2016, becoming the first coach in league history to reach that mark.
Schmid’s 228 regular-season victories rank first in MLS history. He is second in postseason wins (26) behind LA’s Bruce Arena (30). Schmid’s final MLS regular-season record with the Sounders is 115-79-56, with the club owning the second-best winning percentage in the league since 2009.
“It’s been a privilege to work with a legend like Sigi and I’ve learned a lot from him. We thank him for his many years of excellent service to this club,” GM Garth Lagerwey said. “He established a foundation that led this franchise to one of the best launches in professional sports history. It will be tough for any coach to match the legacy of success he has established, and it is with a heavy heart that we part ways with such a respected figure.
“We will begin a search to identify who will lead the players for the next several years. Stability and loyalty are hallmarks of this organization and it is incumbent upon us to reset the club and make good long-term decisions about our future in an effort to establish a championship contender.”
Schmetzer has been the Sounders’ top assistant since the club’s MLS inception in 2009.
The Seattle native is one of the Puget Sound soccer community’s most recognizable figures after playing and coaching at four different levels for one of the region’s top professional franchises since 1980.
Prior to joining Schmid’s staff in MLS, Schmetzer helmed the Sounders for seven seasons in the United Soccer League from 2002-2008, guiding the club to USL-1 championships in 2005 and 2007, as well as a pair of Commissioner’s Cups for the league’s best regular-season record and six postseason appearances in seven years.