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Saturday, December 14, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Brian Schmetzer pleased to win MLS Cup title in his hometown

UPDATED: Sun., Nov. 10, 2019

Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer is all smiles after his team defeated Toronto FC in the MLS Cup championship on Sunday in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer is all smiles after his team defeated Toronto FC in the MLS Cup championship on Sunday in Seattle. (Ted S. Warren / AP)
By Gene Warnick The Spokesman-Review

SEATTLE – As coach Brian Schmetzer walked into the interview room after his Seattle Sounders won their second MLS Cup championship in four seasons, he sported a T-shirt that read “Family” across the front and carried a beer in one hand.

“See, I’m being good to our sponsors,” he told MLS communications director Lauren Brophy as he stepped onto the dais.

As Schmetzer sat down, he spun the can so the stamp faced forward and those in attendance could see it was a Heineken.

“What a caring employee I am,” Schmetzer joked.

But before any questions could be asked, the coach pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. He had prepared some remarks the morning of the final – on one side were words for if the Sounders won, on the other if they lost.

“That’s a testament to (coach) Greg Vanney and Toronto,” Schmetzer said after the Sounders’ 3-1 victory Sunday. “We caught them three times in four years (in the MLS Cup). I was prepared (win or lose).”

Schmetzer thanked everyone from longtime owner Adrian Hanauer to old friend and goalkeeping coach Tommy Dutra – plus a few of the new members of the team’s ownership group: Macklemore, Russell Wilson and Ciara.

As he went on, Schmetzer started to get choked up and began tapping the page in front of him.

“Most importantly, the players and fans deserve this,” he said.

The previous two meetings against Toronto FC for the MLS Cup – in 2016 and 2017 – were played in the Canadian city, with each team winning one title.

This match was billed as “The Trilogy,” and it turned into a thriller for the 69,274 in attendance at CenturyLink Field, the largest crowd for a sporting event in the stadium’s history.

After a scoreless first half, midfielder Victor Rodriguez scored what proved to be the winning goal in the 76th minute and was named the game’s MVP.

“The first half was hard for us. Toronto played well,” Rodriguez said. “The second half we played more of our soccer and kept more possession.”

The Spaniard missed half the season with injuries and came off the bench in three playoff games, including the final.

“It was a hard season for me, but now I’m enjoying this moment. I’m so happy for today, for MLS Cup and the MVP,” he said. “We have to enjoy this now, the champagne is here.”

It marked only the third time a Seattle team won a major-league championship at home, after the Metropolitans became the first American team to claim the Stanley Cup in 1917 and the Storm took the WNBA title in 2004.

Perhaps nobody can appreciate that more than Schmetzer, a Seattle native whose father, Walter, owned a soccer shop on Lake City Way in the northeast part of town. The younger Schmetzer joined the Sounders of the defunct North American Soccer League right out of Nathan Hale High School in 1980 and went on to guide the minor-league Sounders to United Soccer League titles in 2005 and 2007 before MLS expanded to Seattle.

Schmetzer, a dues-paying member of the team’s fan club, the Emerald City Supporters, was asked to put in perspective what this title means to his hometown.

“I’ll give you that answer in about 10 years,” Schmetzer said. “I got to celebrate with the fans a little bit (on the field after the game). Hopefully I’ll get to do that some more with a parade. … This is something they can’t take away from us. I’m very happy and very proud.”

Before the news conference concluded, Sounders officials announced the championship parade would start at noon Tuesday at Westlake Center.

If you’re looking for Schmetzer that day, he’ll likely be found among the fans, hoisting another celebratory Heineken. Because, after all, he’s one of them.

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