SEATTLE – Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer hopes to have at least one of his two vacant technical staff positions filled by the Aug. 25 MLS All-Star game.
The club announced Thursday that top assistant coaches Gonzalo Pineda and Djimi Traore are leaving for other opportunities. Pineda was named Atlanta United head coach while Traore will return to Europe to coach.
Pineda has already assumed his new role. Traore will remain with the Sounders through the upcoming road trip to Portland (Sunday), Dallas (Wednesday) and Columbus (Saturday).
Schmetzer said following training Friday at Starfire Sports that he’s already fielded calls for the openings. He’s working with Craig Waibel, the Sounders’ vice president of soccer and sporting director, to compile a list and procedure.
Pineda’s duties are being spread between assistant Preki; goalkeepers coach Tom Dutra; Henry Brauner, the club’s director of player development; and Jorge García Valera, a video analyst who has his UEFA (Union of European Football Associations) coaching license.
“We can manage, but it would be ideal if we would get a guy in after the road trip,” Schmetzer said. “I’d want a younger guy to help. Djimi is getting a little older, but there were still times where he can jump on the field. We did it if a guy took a knock during an 11-on-11 (drill). Djimi would jump on. Having a younger coach isn’t a bad thing in that regard. Getting another medium guy, another guy to put all the data entry, the training plans, I’ve got a list of things that are important. It doesn’t have to be one guy that fits all.”
Pineda’s departure was different than the club envisioned. The former Liga MX star wasn’t shy about detesting powerhouse Tigres UANL. The plan was to be on the bench for another Sounders win against the Mexican side – the first being a CONCACAF Champions League match in 2013 – celebrating afterward and then departing for Atlanta to be introduced as coach.
But Pineda tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday despite being fully vaccinated. He’s quarantining in his Seattle-area home and wasn’t part of Seattle’s 3-0 win against Tigres at Lumen Field.
The missed opportunity for a final goodbye left more time for reflection. Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan thought Pineda would’ve accepted a head coaching position sooner, especially when he was in the running for the D.C. United slot last winter.
Pineda has been giving Roldan pointers since they were teammates and roomed together in 2015.
“We stayed up until like 12 o’clock at night rewatching the game,” Roldan said of his first pro preseason match. “(Pineda) was telling me what I could do better and what aspects of the game I can improve on. From that minute, I always thought he was going to be a head coach one day. … There were always rumors of him going to another club. After MLS Cup, to be honest, I said my farewells after the Final because you just never know. It was expected.”
Sounders defender Nouhou rejoined training this week and is expected to play in the Cascadia derby Sunday. Nouhou hasn’t played an MLS match since May due to an adductor injury suffered after he returned from international duty with his Cameroonian national team.
Nouhou’s return means he’ll also participate in the All-Star match at Banc of California Stadium. He is one of six Sounders players voted onto the 28-man team.
MLS announced Sounders striker Raul Ruidiaz will participate in the event’s skills challenge while Roldan is part of an online vote to be named the MLS side’s captain. The match is against Liga MX All-Stars.
“It would mean a lot, being from L.A.” said Roldan, an El Rancho High alum. “Something I wouldn’t have thought I’d be able to do. Regardless, being part of the game makes me feel good that people are recognizing what I do. Obviously, I do it for myself, for my career. But the fact that people are seeing what I’m doing on the field is something that I appreciate.”
Seattle is the lone MLS team remaining in the Leagues Cup tournament. The Sounders will play Liga MX side Santos Laguna in the semifinals Sept. 14 at Lumen Field. Santos defeated Orlando City 1-0 Thursday to advance.
Due to the international game, Seattle’s game against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC slated for Sept. 15 was moved to Oct. 9 at Lumen Field.
Sunday’s match was pushed back to 7 p.m. at Providence Park due to heat considerations in the Portland area. Temperatures topped 100 degrees twice this week.
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