As his father tells the story, Walter Schmetzer beckoned Alan Hinton to watch his vaunted Lake City Hawks to watch a player of promise. But it wasn’t his son.
Still, as is often the case when coaches scout young (in this case U18) players, the original target can be eclipsed by another aspirant sharing the field, and that’s how on spring day in 1980 Brian Schmetzer’s long association with Puget Sound professional soccer began.
Over 36 years since, Schmetzer has been associated as a player or coach with virtually every entity where one could draw a paycheck. Of the 500-some players who’ve worn a Seattle or Tacoma shirt over the years, Brian’s probably watched, played beside or coached an overwhelming majority of them.
For those inclined to seek lost treasures, a mission awaits: Where exactly resides the championship trophy for the Seattle SeaDogs?
Is it stowed in the garage of some player or coach? Maybe in the corner of a former owner’s basement billiard room? Or was it somehow designated for the dumpster or worse, a fateful trip to Oklahoma City?
The SeaDogs were one of the shortest-lived professional soccer clubs in Cascadia, yet they will forever hold the distinction of defending Continental Indoor Soccer League champions. In short, they had their struggles but finished on a high note.
During their three-year stand at Seattle Center, the SeaDogs were met mostly with ambivalence by the soccer community, if not the general public. They announced themselves 19 months in advance of their debut and during the one window over 41 years that Puget Sound was without a functioning club. Still, they were essentially greeted with a collective shrug.
It’s a bastardization, for sure. Yet for a time, while it may be a debased version of the Beautiful Game, it was the de facto standard bearer for American soccer.
Indoor soccer, arena soccer or speed soccer, call it what you will, was raising the roof of many an arena while the professional outdoor game was languishing on virtual life support. More than simply a placeholder, the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) once featured teams in 14 cities and, in some instances, outdrew its NBA co-tenant.
Whatever the 6-a-side version lacked in sophistication it compensated with up-close, end-to-end action and showmanship. Not to mention, there was no shortage of goals. Sixty-minute games generated about three times as many goals as the 90-minute, full-field variety.
Once upon time, these bleak days and long, dark nights of mid-winter were when the American game glowed brightest.
Not only around Puget Sound, but across the continent, the highest form of professional soccer was being played amidst a driving disco beat and within dasher boards and plexiglass.
Now known more commonly as arena soccer, at its height it was identified as indoor, aka six-a-side or speed soccer, at least in Seattle.
Over the coming weeks I will reach back to those nights of yore to share some history and reflections from coaches and management of the Sounders, Stars and Sea Dogs, along with those who literally played wall passes and served their share of minutes in the sin bin.