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Sounders’ new coach no stranger to rivalry with Timbers

Long-time assistant Schmetzer replaced Sigi Schmid in Seattle

By Paul Danzer, Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter
Published: August 19, 2016, 11:57pm

Portland Timbers coach Caleb Porter says it will be strange not to see Sigi Schmid guiding the Sounders on Sunday when the Major League Soccer rivals clash at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

But for Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer it won’t be strange territory at all.

Schmetzer, who has guided Seattle to two wins and a draw since Schmid was let go on July 26, has experienced the rivalry from every angle dating to the 1980s and the North American Soccer League days.

“My most vivid memory back then is just getting off a bus and having to play a reserve match against a bunch of guys in green uniforms,” Schmetzer said. “And back in those days reserve games were good matches to play in, a lot of young guys desperate to get first-team minutes.”

There figures to be a fair amount of desperation Sunday with the Timbers and Sounders both in need of wins to improve what are precarious playoff chances.

But Schmetzer, who coached the Sounders against the Timbers when both clubs were in second-division leagues, said Sunday’s match won’t be any more emotional for him.

As Porter noted, Schmetzer was Schmid’s top assistant coach, so he’s experienced the MLS’ marquee rivalry up close. Schmetzer said the matches are not about the coaches.

“I think it’ll still feel the same. It’ll still be Seattle versus. Portland,” Schmetzer said. “I think the teams and the players, I think the fans — that’s more important than me against Caleb or Sigi against Caleb or anything like that. It’s the two franchises going up against each other, I think that’s what makes it special.”

The biggest difference for Schmetzer, 54, is preparing for the match.

There are more details for a head coach to handle than for assistant coaches. But his time as an assistant coach helps that preparation, Schmetzer said.

“When I was doing the opposition scouting for Sigi I had a chance to get to know Caleb in a sense by watching his teams very closely on film,” Schmetzer said. “So getting to know Caleb’s tendencies, what he likes to do how he likes to set up his team is important.”

From Porter’s perspective, Schmetzer has done a good job getting the Sounders clicking after the arrival of talented Uruguayan international Nicolas Lodeiro.

“He’s done a really good job of getting results and putting out a plan,” Porter said. “That’s not a surprise. He’s not a new coach. He’s been a coach. He’s experienced. And he’s been involved in every single decision that’s been made (by the Sounders) over the last eight years.”

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Columbian Soccer, hockey and Community Sports Reporter