Despite Seattle's struggles, Schmid's reputation is intact as he exits
In a funny way, Tuesday's news that the Seattle Sounders have parted ways with coach Sigi Schmid after more than seven seasons isn't a surprise, yet still comes as a shock.
After all, Schmid, who led the LA Galaxy and Columbus Crew to MLS Cup glory before taking over at Seattle ahead of its first MLS season in 2009, is the only manager Seattle has known since entering the league and turning it on its head.
Unlike most new teams, the Schmid-led Sounders were good on the field from the start. They remain one of just two clubs to make the playoffs in their expansion season -- the 1998 Chicago Fire is the other -- and never failed to qualify for the postseason on his watch.
That instant success -- Seattle also won four U.S. Open Cups and the 2014 Supporters Shield under Schmid -- provided a foundation of credibility that went a long way toward the club breaking the MLS attendance record on an almost yearly basis. (Last season's average of 44,247 was higher than English Premier League juggernauts Chelsea and Liverpool).
Those achievements meant bigger expectations, though, and the club's failure to reach an MLS Cup final under Schmid -- let alone win one -- began to take its toll.
The German-born, California-raised former UCLA boss appeared to be on thin ice before, most notably after early playoff exits in 2013 and 2015, but survived. This season, though, has been an abject disaster for the Sounders.
The club sold Obafemi Martins right before the season started missed its two other big-money forwards -- Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez -- for long stretches because of injuries and international duty.
"It's been a tough year for us," Dempsey told ESPN FC on Tuesday. "I had a good partnership with Oba and when he left I don't think we replaced him in terms of his production in goals and assists. We didn't bring in another DP so it hurt us in the attacking third. I think we've been a team that has been lacking for goals there. Hopefully during the transfer window we can bring in an attacking player."
Schmid's squad managed just 20 goals in 20 games and Seattle currently sits ninth out of 10 Western Conference teams. A 3-0 loss in Sunday's nationally televised game at Sporting Kansas City, in which his team appeared to lack urgency, meant the writing was on the wall.
"Ultimately, the club and Sigi agreed that a change was needed at this time," Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said in a statement Tuesday. "But Sigi's legacy will always be part of our history."
Sounders assistant Brian Schmetzer, who coached the club in the second tier before its ascent to MLS, will take over on an interim basis. Whether he can do enough to keep the position remains to be seen, but at least one potential replacement is no longer available: Former Real Salt Lake and New York City FC manager Jason Kreis, who worked with Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey at RSL, was hired by Orlando City last week.
As for the 63-year-old Schmid, the winningest coach in MLS history will no doubt have other opportunities in his future, even if he -- along with the Galaxy's Bruce Arena -- doesn't quite fit the trend of MLS teams offering jobs to recently-retired players.
One would think that LAFC, which will enter the league in 2018, would be a good fit but it might have to act quickly. Despite how it ended in Seattle, Schmid leaves the city with his reputation intact. He won't stay unemployed for long.
Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.