Departed Schmid's fingerprints all over Seattle's MLS Cup run

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle's surge after his departure shouldn't overshadow his contributions. Scott French reminds us what Sigi Schmid contributed to this year's Sounders.

Sigi Schmid has won more games than every other MLS coach, and his 11 major trophies, won with three clubs, are surpassed only by Bruce Arena’s dozen. His legacy, no matter how his tenure in Seattle closed, is secure.

And it's growing.

Happy for the group, because they worked hard to get there. Sad, because I'm not part of it.

- Schmid

The Sounders' run to their first MLS Cup final, accomplished only after his departure in late July, isn't possible without Schmid's work the past eight years, and he deserves a great deal of the credit for it.

Schmid, 63, took Seattle everywhere except the title game -- a Supporters' Shield, four U.S. Open Cup championships, four trips to the CONCACAF Champions' League, MLS' first 20-win season since the shootout era -- and now that the Sounders are playing for the big prize, he can't help but feel conflicted.

“It is what it is,” Schmid, who won championships with the LA Galaxy and Columbus Crew, told FourFourTwo. “I still have contact with quite a few or the players and people there, so I congratulated them all. ...

“Happy for the group, because they worked hard to get there. Sad, because I'm not part of it. But happy, because it's basically the team we've been able to put together the last year and a half.”

Schmid, since the Sounders' 2014 Shield triumph, helped bring in outside backs Tyrone Mears and Joevin Jones, center back Roman Torres, midfielders Erik Friberg, Andreas Ivanschitz and Cristian Roldan, plus Morris and returning midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, who arrived two days after Lodeiro. His fingerprints are all over this team.

The Sounders moved on from Schmid after a 6-12-2 start, and they've caught fire under Brian Schmetzer -- Schmid's chief assistant and head coach of Seattle's USL teams before the move to MLS -- going 12-3-4 to get into postseason, knocking off the league's top two clubs, and advancing to Saturday night's showdown at Toronto FC.

Schmetzer reenergized the team, for sure, but the addition of Uruguayan playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro just as he took the reins has made all the difference. Lodeiro has filled a gaping hole in the attack following talismanic striker Obafemi Martins' departure for China just before it opened this year's campaign.

Lodeiro, who was honored as MLS' Newcomer of the Year, has eight goals and eight assists in 18 games, including four goals in five playoff outings. The Sounders are a different side since he arrived.

Schmid, who worked to bring Lodeiro to Seattle, knew that would happen.

I was disappointed in not getting that opportunity to put that team through its paces.

- Schmid

“Because the relationship that Oba and Clint [Dempsey] had built up as an important part of our attacking piece,” Schmid told FourFourTwo in early August, “then without Oba, it put a lot of pressure on Jordan Morris to be a lot more successful early on. Which is really unfair to Jordan, because he's an excellent talent and is going to be a fantastic player and is working towards that ... but all of a sudden, now his expectations were he had to fill what Oba had done as a 12-, 13-, 14-year veteran of professional soccer, and that was unfair.

“We didn't replace [Martins]. And I knew we needed to replace him and knew we needed one more attacking piece, and we didn't have that.”

Schmid would have liked the chance to coach Lodeiro. Had that happened, he might be one win from becoming the first coach to win MLS Cup crowns with three clubs.

“I was disappointed from the standpoint of the timing of when it happened with the new players coming in,” Schmid said after his dismissal. “I was disappointed in not getting that opportunity to put that team through its paces.”

Regardless, the Sounders' success since then reflects on Schmid and his work. Much like the LA Galaxy's MLS Cup/U.S. Open Cup double in 2005 and Columbus’ 2009 Supporters’ Shield, Seattle’s run speaks to Schmid’s impact. Another team continues to success after his departure.

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Scott French is a reporter for FourFourTwo. Follow him on Twitter @ScottJFrench.