By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
  1. Dan Loney

    Dan Loney BigSoccer Supporter

    Mar 10, 2000
    Cincilluminati
    Club:
    Los Angeles Sol
    Nat'l Team:
    Philippines

    Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

    By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
    If Sigi Schmid had simply retired from coaching in 1999, he still would have been one of the most important and influential figures in the history of American soccer. His legacy at UCLA was well-secured after nineteen seasons, three titles, and alumni such as Paul Caligiuri, Cobi Jones, Brad Friedel, Joe-Max Moore, Carlos Bocanegra and Nick Rimando. He would have made the Hall of Fame merely as a scout.

    Of course he won at UCLA, all the time. So naturally, he was criticized for not winning more often, by more goals, with more elegance. Schmid's first two championship teams won their final games 1-0 (after eight overtimes) and 0-0 (after overtime and penalty kicks) (NCAA rules were always comedic). And of course, Virginia upstaged Schmid's Bruins in the 1990's something fierce. Sure, coaches are there to be criticized, and fans always want more. Schmid seemed unusually bedeviled by fans who wouldn't accept winning almost everything in sight most of the time, though.

    And, to be fair, you'd think a coach who rustled up, in succession, Friedel, Kevin Hartman, Matt Reis, and Rimando would have been a little bit more confident going forward. It was rare for the Bruins to kick off from center circle more than once a week.

    It was actually a sign of the growing prestige of Major League Soccer that a pro team was able to lure Schmid away from UCLA. And, as we have seen in retrospect, that might have ended up the wrong move, had MLS closed after the 2001 season. Schmid would have coached the Galaxy for three years, won one Open Cup, lost two MLS Cups, and faced the decision to either elbow his way back into UCLA or find another university coaching position.

    Fortunately for all of us, the league lived on, and allowed Schmid to be the first to turn Galaxy fans into the spoiled brats we are today. The Galaxy also helpfully wrote the occasional name onto the lineup card for him, which goes a long way towards explaining why Schmid followed up the 2002 double with the 2003 and 2004 nothing. Sigi was by no means the first, and was by no means the last coach to be saddled with players neither taking nor living up to responsibility. (Although as of this writing, Sigi is actually the most recent to take the fall for such players.)

    Most of the credit for the astounding 2008 Columbus Crew success is given to Guillermo Barros Schelotto, and to a certain extent this is fair and correct. Barros Schelotto and the Crew did win the Shield the following year, after all. But Schmid's departure to a high-spending expansion team has probably made him a less revered figure in Columbus than he should be. The Sounders were widely believed to have violated league tampering rules in hiring Schmid, probably because that's precisely what the Sounders did do.

    It was the right decision for the Sounders in retrospect; Schmid was absolutely worth the money. Without Sigi the Sounders would never have backed up their outsized boasts, at least not on the field. The huge crowds that were uninterested in the USL Sounders were amply rewarded and entertained by Sigi's MLS team. The Sounders were the most successful expansion team on the field since the Chicago Fire, and one of the most successful expansion teams in the history of American sports, when you factor in both wins and attendance. Sounders fans enthusiastically made this case, as was their right, nay, their duty.

    The Sounders never won the league championship, and failed to win the league championship in ways that must have been irritatingly reminiscent of the 1990's, at least to Sigi Schmid. Seattle won everything else, though. Well, apart from the CONCACAF championship – but Sigi already had one of those tucked away in the closet somewhere.

    During the 2009 season, Schmid added the all-time MLS win record to his long list of accomplishments. Arguably, his most impressive accomplishment lay ahead.

    We can all agree, however reluctantly, that the US Open Cup is a consolation prize. The Open Cup can make a mediocre season much more enjoyable, but it is no substitute for the championship. Seattle fans were probably happier with their shot-free MLS Cup win than with the Open Cup success in previous years.

    Nevertheless, the Sounders and the Open Cup were the best things that ever happened to each other. The Open Cup's history and prestige gave the Sounders a page in American soccer history from launch, much like the Chicago Fire in the previous decade. The Sounders followed that up with some amazing records. Every important attendance record for the Open Cup now belongs to Seattle. Sigi guided the Sounders to three consecutive Open Cup championships, a feat that hadn't been accomplished since Lyndon Johnson was President. They made it the final game four years in a row, which hadn't been done since Stix, Baer and Fuller in 1934, and were perilously close to winning the Cup four years in a row, which hadn't been done since ever. The Sounders have to settle for merely being mentioned in the same breath as the Fall River Marksmen.

    Schmid's success with the Sounders has probably made him the all-time most successful Open Cup coach. If Sigi were a club, he'd share the all-time wins record with Bethlehem Steel and Los Angeles Maccabi. Was that accomplishment enough to keep him secure with the Sounders? No, but then again, whenever you're in a club so exclusive that the royal "we" covers the entire membership, that's a pretty impressive historical achievement.

    His career doesn't need to be embellished with counterfactuals, but one wonders what would have happened if he had coached, or one day coached, the US men's national team. Almost certainly he would have enjoyed considerable, maybe unprecedented success…with fans carping and criticizing how he did it every step of the way, until he was inevitably fired. He did not leave the Sounders on his own terms, and he did not leave the Galaxy on his own terms either time. That doesn't prove anything, except that he coached soccer for a living.

    All this is merely Sigi from a fan's point of view. Schmid's legacy is welded into American soccer, and will be remembered as long as long as the sport is followed in this country. His accomplishments don't exhaust his legacy – it probably only scratches the surface. Literally hundreds of people had the opportunity to play for him, dozens have coached with him. He wasn't universally liked – you simply can't be a coach and please everyone – but he was unfailingly charming and likeable. He will be sorely missed.
     
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Comments

Discussion in 'Articles' started by Dan Loney, Dec 27, 2018.

    1. Mateofelipe

      Mateofelipe Member+

      Mar 10, 2001
      Spokane, WA
      Club:
      Seattle Sounders
      Nat'l Team:
      United States

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      I was one of those carping fans. As I learn more about the game, Sigi keeps getting smarter and smarter. It's fitting he pretty much coached til he dropped. When asked about retiring, he said, "People retire to do what they love. I love coaching soccer."
       
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    2. rocketeer22

      rocketeer22 Member+

      Apr 11, 2000
      Oakton,VA
      Club:
      DC United
      Nat'l Team:
      United States

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      With respect to Sigi Schmid, I wonder if any honors will be bestowed. The MLS trophy is named for Anschutz and the U.S. Open Cup is after Lamar Hunt. Since Sigi Schmid is known as the coach with the most wins in MLS history and the Supporters' Shield recognizes the club with the most overall points in a season, how about the Sigi Schmid Supporters' Shield?
       
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    3. Geneva

      Geneva LA for Life

      Feb 5, 2003
      Southern Cal
      Club:
      Los Angeles Galaxy
      Nat'l Team:
      United States

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      Thank you, Dan, this is the best retrospective requiem I've read. Sigi deserves it.
       
      bigredfutbol and Honore de Ballsac repped this.
    4. mschofield

      mschofield Member+

      May 16, 2000
      Berlin
      Club:
      Union Berlin
      Nat'l Team:
      Germany

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      Really nice piece. Thanks for the perspective. I'd think his shot to manage the nats would have been the slot JK filled, which in retrospect is too bad, but also Sigi's side was more fun than the nats at that time. I was not a Sounders fan but I made a point of watching them. Serious fun. I don't rate college soccer, so to me Seattle was peak Sigi.
      As I wasn't in the US for 2003 or 2004 (and until 2008), I have to ask: Who were the pre-printed players he was saddled with?
       
    5. Bill Archer

      Bill Archer BigSoccer Supporter

      Mar 19, 2002
      Washington, NC
      Club:
      Columbus Crew
      Nat'l Team:
      United States

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      The Supporters Shield is already named after someone - the supporters.

      However, if there was ever an award that should be named after a legend like Sigi, it's the MLS Coach of the Year award.

      Someone should start a petition or something.

      It's true that the 08 Crew will forever be associated more with Schelotto than with Sigi, and perhaps justifiably so, but I well remember the newly named head coach arriving at the 2006 Superdraft in Philadelphia carrying not a scalpel but a broadaxe, and proceeding to deal away anyone and everyone from Andrulis' last roster for pretty much anything he was offered.

      At one point if they announced that a starting midfielder had been dealt to New York for a table lamp and a bag of Skittles, it wouldn't have been surprising.

      When he was done there were exactly four players left from the roster he walked in with. I doubt if any roster in any sport has ever been so ruthlessly purged, and the team he cobbled together that year was dreadful.

      2007 started out much the same way, but then, around August, it was like someone literally turned on the lights. They were suddenly beating up on everyone and, although they missed the playoffs by a whisker, everybody knew what Sigi had built.

      And of course 2008 was the payoff; that team is still rated by most as one of the five best MLS has ever fielded and, Schelotto included, it was assembled from almost literally nothing by a large, enigmatic man who only smiled when he won.

      This of course was immediately followed by Clark Hunt refusing to pay him what he was clearly worth which, as much as the money, damaged the pride of a very very proud man. So he left for Seattle (and yes, the league in fact fined Seattle for tampering with Sigi but he would have ended up there anyway)

      Still, the one thing he wanted most, the thing he openly desired, was the one thing he never got - the USMNT job, and can anyone doubt that he would have been superb? Has anyone ever understood the American player better than the Big Guy?

      Still, the legacy he left is gigantic, and soccer in the US is much the better because of him. And in the end, that's probably enough.

      Happy trails.
       
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    6. Dan Loney

      Dan Loney BigSoccer Supporter

      Mar 10, 2000
      Cincilluminati
      Club:
      Los Angeles Sol
      Nat'l Team:
      Philippines

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      Hong Myung-Bo, most notoriously.
       
      TOAzer, bigredfutbol and mschofield repped this.
    7. mschofield

      mschofield Member+

      May 16, 2000
      Berlin
      Club:
      Union Berlin
      Nat'l Team:
      Germany

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      Really? I remember him in Dallas in 94. He was quite a player back then, at least in a Cup game. So I'm guessing he was well beyond his use by date when he arrived in LA? Interesting to think of this, though, in the context of how MLS has changed. If Hong on the verge of retirement was too big to bench in 2003/4, that says something about the league. It isn't a nice thing.
       
    8. Dan Loney

      Dan Loney BigSoccer Supporter

      Mar 10, 2000
      Cincilluminati
      Club:
      Los Angeles Sol
      Nat'l Team:
      Philippines

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      Bo lost interest in Los Angeles in a big old hurry. Some of this was hoping the Korean fans would come back more than once to watch him, but I don't blame them for noticing he wasn't exactly locked in.
       
    9. Martek

      Martek New Member

      Apr 11, 2008
      Houston
      Club:
      Houston Dynamo
      Nat'l Team:
      United States

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      Excellent read Dan. I hated when my club played against Sigi-coached teams because we almost always lost, and even the wins were tough as nails affairs. Sigi, quite simply, rocked.
       
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    10. Bill Archer

      Bill Archer BigSoccer Supporter

      Mar 19, 2002
      Washington, NC
      Club:
      Columbus Crew
      Nat'l Team:
      United States

      Sigi Schmid 1953-2018

      By Dan Loney on Dec 27, 2018 at 4:14 PM
      Much as I hate to say I told you so - oh hell, like everyone else I freaking LOVE it - yesterday MLS announced that the Coach of the Year Award will henceforth be named after Sigi Schmid.
       
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