Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid spoke with reporters earlier in the offseason, and I used some of that for a preview of the opening of preseason training camp Saturday.
Here is a transcript from that interview:
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(Have you been able to come to grips and move past last season?) “I’m just focused on this next year. Sometimes it’s hard for me to watch MLS Cups. I watched the game this year and look at things. You sit there and say, for example, Kansas City has a rep of being this great attacking team, but yet they were ninth in the league in goals scored. They were first in terms of goals allowed. At the end of the day, you look at the fact that they’ve won two championships now on penalty kicks. They scored one goal on a penalty kick. They scored one goal off a corner kick. So it’s not off the run of play that they’re doing it, but they’re doing it with a lot of grit and a lot of determination. For me, it further resolves (the notion) of us getting back to that a little bit and making sure that we play with that same grit and that same determination, which I think we played with at times but didn’t play with all the time last year. My whole focus is on the changes that we need to make and making sure that we have a group that’s going to bleed for each other.”
(Was there a point in the season last year where you maybe realized you didn’t have the group you needed?) “A lot of coaching is man management, and we did a lot of man management last year. The thing in our league is once you have players, it’s not like you can say, ‘OK, let’s add this player or add that player,’ because you can’t do that with the cap. You have to subtract in order to add. Sometimes you get to a point in the season where you can’t subtract for whatever reason, because you couldn’t find a trading partner, guaranteed contracts, it’s after the trade deadline or whatever. Then you really have to manage your team, and it’s man management and try and get through. You’re always hoping that certain things happen for you … ‘OK, this group is going to be able to play together; let’s get them out there together,’ and then it changes. That bond just never got created from the group that was on the field.”
(Personally, how did you handle the days in between the end of the season and when they announced you’d be retained?) “Just worked. I just worked and I worked like I was coming back. That was always my thought. I think when you look at a cycle of a club, you’re always going to have some up years and you’re going to go through a down year. If this is our down year, where we finish in fourth place and don’t finish the season well, if that’s our down year, and we still made the playoffs, and we can rebound from that, that’s not a bad place to be. We have to show that we can rebound from it. I left Columbus after three years and we won the championship, so I didn’t have to go through that cycle there. When we were at UCLA, we went through that cycle a couple of times, where we had good teams and then you’d have a year where you’d struggle a bit, and then you’d catch it back up. In L.A., in 2003, we didn’t have a good season. We’d made the playoffs as a fourth-place team, got knocked out by San Jose in the playoff series. Then the next year we were in first place, and obviously at that point the GM and myself didn’t really get along, and I got fired. But I knew that I had brought the team back to where it should be. A year later, that team won a championship with basically the players that I brought together in 2004. That’s my goal as to what I want to do in Seattle.”
(What did you want to hear from ownership in terms of wanting to be back?) “You always want to have the support of ownership and have them realize that what you’re doing is right, and you try to do a good job. They were recognizing of that and they were appreciative of that. We agreed on what some of the issues were and what some of the problems were and what were some of the things we needed to do to correct those things so we could establish a plan and we could work together in the same direction and move forward.”
(Why is Seattle so special to you?) “Because the fans are so special. To me, every time we don’t win at home, it eats at me. That we haven’t been able to bring an MLS Cup or Supporters’ Shield to the city eats at me. I’m thrilled that we’ve been able to bring three (U.S. Open Cups) here, but I want to bring as many championships as I can — bring a CONCACAF title. We actually were on the fringe of maybe coming close to doing that (last season). It’s special in my heart because of the fans and what this city has done for the sport that I’ve invested my life in. … I never thought I would make my living as a soccer coach. I was able to do that, but what Seattle has done for MLS and what Seattle has done for the sport in the United States is it’s taken it to a different level and to a new level. I wish I was 20 years younger right now and coaching in Seattle, because you see what the sport is going to be 5, 10, 15, 20 years from now. It’s going to continue to grow, but the impetus of the growth, the injection, has come from this city.”