Seattle Sounders win MLS Cup
The word ‘family’ was emblazoned on Brian Schmetzer’s T-shirt and it is what the Seattle Sounders have become to its head coach.
The Seattle native led the Sounders to its second MLS Cup title on Sunday after beating Toronto FC 3-1 in the final.
And none of the 69,274 fans that crammed into the Sounders’ CenturyLink Field or the thousands more watching on the streets are likely to have enjoyed its second championship win more than the 57-year-old coach soaking it up on the sideline.
Schmetzer’s emotional media conference after the game highlighted what the team he joined back in 1980 has come to mean to him.
“The players and the fans, they deserve this,” Schmetzer said with tears in his eyes as he struggled to get the words out.
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Local boy comes good
Having made his debut for the Seattle side in 1980, Schmetzer bounced around the country before eventually coming home to retire with the Sounders.
Schmetzer became the head coach of the USL First Division — the second tier of North American soccer before 2008 — Sounders between 2001 until 2008.
Following seven years as an assistant at the Sounders after it became a MLS side, Schmetzer became the interim head coach midway through the 2016 season.
His impact was felt immediately, as he led the Sounders to their first MLS Cup title that year.
For former Sounders winger Steve Zakuani, Schmetzer “doesn’t get the respect he deserves.”
“He’s so loved by the players precisely because he’s so unassuming and just one of the guys,” Zakuani wrote on MLS.com.
“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen him put his foot down when the situation warrants it. But in general, he leads through positive reinforcement and being approachable.”
While Schmetzer’s Sounders side weren’t always the best team on the CenturyLink Field pitch on Sunday, second-half goals from Kelvin Leerdam, Victor Rodriguez and Raul Ruidiaz had the stadium literally shaking and returned the MLS Cup to Seattle.
“It obviously means a lot,” Schmetzer reflected after the win. “It means a lot that I was able to celebrate with the guys that do all the hard work. Able to celebrate with our front office staff who do a really great job of putting on a tremendous event.
“Every step from here on out, we are going to enjoy this moment. This is something that nobody can take away from any of us in this organization or myself. I’m very happy and very proud.”
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Falling just short
Up against a deafening Seattle crowd, Toronto had the better start to the game.
The Canadian side dominated the play — finishing with 65% possession — without really creating any clear-cut chances, until the Sounders broke the deadlock in the 57th minute thanks to Leerdam’s deflected goal.
“I thought it was a gut punch, just in terms of how we played,” said Jozy Altidore, who scored on his return from injury. “We dominated the game. It’s shades of 2016 a bit.”
The match was a rematch of the 2016 Cup final, and the similarities between the two games went beyond just the two teams involved.
In 2016, Toronto had control of the game, failed to capitalize on their control and eventually lost out to the Sounders on penalties.
Although Toronto did get on the board this time thanks to Altidore’s late goal, the frustration of the Toronto players was evident after the game.
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“That’s how it goes,” captain Michael Bradley said. “Nobody’s feeling sorry for themselves. It’s frustrating.
“On these days, things hang in the balance, and you need a little bit of quality, skill, a break, a little bit of luck. By and large, that’s what opens these games up.”