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Out With The Coach, In With A New Star Player For Sounders

Ted S. Warren
AP Photo
This March 8, 2015, fie photo shows Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid standing with his team before an MLS match in Seattle. The Sounders and Schmid are parting ways after eight years.

The Seattle Sounders host the LA Galaxy Sunday afternoon at CenturyLink Field.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel explains the nationally-televised match comes after a tumultuous week for the team. Coach Sigi Schmid was fired and a new Designated Player was acquired.

Why Now? 

"The short answer is they had a terrible game against Sporting Kansas City, his last game, in which they got no shots on goal and just one shot that was six yards wide," Thiel said.

"The bigger picture was that a lot of the veterans are on the north side of 30 and a lot of the young players haven't developed yet.

"And Schmid couldn't quite make something happen with this roster that was ill-designed — which is not his fault, really. That's the responsibility of General Manager Garth Lagerwey.

"Lagerwey did say something in the press conference that was interesting. He said he's only been here 18 months and he deferred to Sigi Schmid during that time, meaning he didn't want to say something bad about the best coach and the only coach they've had.

"But clearly he was unhappy. He said, 'I've never seen a team play like this that I was part of building.’

"I think Schmid could easily say he was unhappy with the team he was handed. But he was also handed a pink slip and it's time to move on.”

From Pink Slip To Welcome Mat

On the same day Schmid was fired, the Sounders acquired new designated player Nicolas Ludeiro, an offensive star from Uruguay. He replaces Obafemi Martins, who left the team before the start of the season to play in China. Thiel said the timing of Ludeiro's acquisition was awkward.

"A former Sounders player played with him in Uruguay and sung the praises of Seattle, and the Sounders and Sigi Schmid. The guy lands at the airport, and the coach is gone," he said.

"So he could easily be thinking, 'What am I getting into here?’

"He is an attacking midfielder, which is exactly what the Sounders need to try to distribute the ball to their forwards, which are Jordan Morris, the [Mercer Island] rookie, and Clint Dempsey, the veteran star.

"If they get more action and get the ball in more places where they can do more damage, this will be a tremendous acquisition.

"The key thing is that he's only 27 years old. That's a rare thing for any MLS team to get a quality, veteran European or Latin American player in his prime. "Any team would love to have him. I think the second half of the season will show that he's something special.

And For Rest Of The Season?

Thiel said it's hard to say how the rest of the season will go for the Sounders under interim coach Brian Schmetzer. 

“[He's a] longtime assistant coach to Sigi and a guy who's been around Seattle in pro soccer since 1980. He's a very capable guy.

"But whether he has the respect and command of this team, we just can't know. We'll have to see how that plays out.

"I think Ludeiro's going to have an impact. There are [up to] three Designated Player slots [on each MLS team]. This allows MLS teams to pay much higher salaries than the rest of the roster.

"The mid-season acquisitions are always difficult to manage without a training camp and without familiarity. We saw that with Clint Dempsey three years ago. We're probably going to see the same thing now.

"The Sounders have six wins, 12 losses and two draws. They're in such a deep ditch now, I don't see them getting back into playoff contention. It's really hard to do something quick, in terms of a fix, right now,” said Thiel.

You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwestand

Kirsten Kendrick hosts Morning Edition on KNKX and the sports interview series "Going Deep," talking with folks tied to sports in our region about what drives them — as professionals and people.
Art Thiel is a co-founder and writer for the rising sports website Sportspress Northwest. In 2003 Thiel wrote the definitive book about the Seattle Mariners, “Out of Left Field,” which became a regional bestseller. In 2009, along with Steve Rudman and KJR 950 afternoon host Mike Gastineau, Thiel authored “The Great Book of Seattle Sports Lists,” a cross between and Mad Magazine that has become mandatory reading for any sports fan who has an indoor bathroom.