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Matt Calkins: The Sounders’ Brian Schmetzer may be Seattle’s most successful active coach. So why is his contract about to expire?

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 14, 2020

Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer, clapping, walks with supporters on Nov. 12, 2019, during a parade to celebrate the Sounders’ MLS Cup championship in Seattle.  (Associated Press)
Seattle Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer, clapping, walks with supporters on Nov. 12, 2019, during a parade to celebrate the Sounders’ MLS Cup championship in Seattle. (Associated Press)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – There is Pete Carroll, who has led the Seahawks to eight postseasons, two Super Bowls and one world championship.

There was Chris Petersen, who took the Huskies to the College Football Playoff and the Rose Bowl while winning two Pac-12 titles.

There are Dan Hughes and Gary Kloppenburg, who both oversaw a WNBA title for the Storm.

But if you’re looking for the most successful coach in Seattle over the past 10 years, if not the turn of the century, Brian Schmetzer might be your pick.

In his first four years with the Sounders, the Seattle native won two MLS Cups and made a third MLS final. The title in 2016 came after he inherited a team in the middle of the season that appeared to be out of the playoff race. He has won without star players such as Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris, and has consistently righted the ship after slow starts to the season. His Sounders have the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference entering the playoffs, and given their postseason record under Schmetzer’s watch, are poised for a third MLS title.

So why, then, has this man not received a contract extension? This was the subject of a recent story in The Athletic, which pointed out that Schmetzer’s current deal runs through the end of this season. Although he wasn’t fuming about the uncertainty of his future in Seattle, he did sound slightly perturbed.

“It would seem to me pretty obvious that you would want to re-sign the best staff in the league. I would think that would be pretty obvious,” Schmetzer said. “Have there been talks? Yes. Have the talks gone slow? Are we close? You can certainly ask (Sounders general manager) Garth (Lagerwey) those questions. I am certainly hopeful that I would remain a Seattle Sounder, but I have not signed anything yet, and it’s getting late in the year.”

This shouldn’t be viewed as a criticism or power play from Lagerwey to Schmetzer. We don’t know what Schmetzer is asking for, and negotiations can take time – no matter how frustrating that may be. But it’s almost impossible to think that the Sounders would let Schmetzer get away, isn’t it?

His 1.70 points per game are the best in MLS history. He has gone 12-3-2 in the playoffs, giving him the best postseason winning percentage (.765) as well. His game plan in last year’s Western Conference final against LAFC, which had amassed the most regular-season points in MLS history, was masterful. Doesn’t seem to matter how much roster turnover there is, either – Schmetzer wins.

Moreover, he bleeds Seattle blue and green. One of the standout visuals of last year’s victory parade was Schmetzer getting off the bus and walking the streets, high-fiving fans lined up to celebrate. He deserves to stay here, and based on his résumé, should be paid like one of the top coaches, if not the top coach in the league. But will he?

In the Athletic story, Lagerwey expressed hope in retaining Schmetzer long term.

“I want Brian and his staff back,” Lagerwey said. “We’re working on it. Talks are ongoing, and I remain optimistic we can get to a positive resolution.”

Lagerwey is certainly no novice in this game. Some of the acquisitions he has made – from Nicolas Lodeiro to Raul Ruidiaz – have been just as instrumental in the Sounders’ success as Schmetzer’s coaching. He knows what he’s doing. But it’s not hard to see why Schmetzer might be annoyed.

Up next for the Sounders is LAFC in the opening round of the playoffs. Ideally, that matchup is occupying far more of Schmetzer’s mind than contract negotiations. Neither Lagerwey nor Schmetzer were available Thursday.

Let it be noted, though: This man has done nothing but produce victories. It would be a shame if he didn’t get the chance to produce a whole lot more in the future.

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