You couldn’t tell the players without a program, and your program was useless unless you arrived at the park early enough to hear the squad announced. That was the first lesson learned upon attending a British football match some 30 years ago. It was a brisk spring evening in Scotland, with dust swirling in a windswept, dilapidated ground of Stirling Albion (don’t ask).
There were no programs and not a lot of spectators either. Although Scottish in heritage this visitor didn’t speak the language. But I’m pretty sure the ol’ man in tweed a few yards away was suggesting I keep an eye on the No. 10. And ain’t that always the case?
Since the height of Pelé’s reign, the No. 10 shirt has been football’s most prized. In theory, it should be issued to a player of quality (at least compared to the rest of the squad). Ideally, it would be worn by an attacking player with a creative, cunning mind to go along with a quiver of skills for surgically dismembering a defense.
Enter Nicolás Lodeiro, Seattle’s new No. 10 and most recently of Boca Juniors. Talk about the pressure and expectation of wearing that number, at La Bombonera Lodeiro was tracing the footsteps of both a demigod (Maradona) and a recently retired legend (Riquelme). And Nico handled it with aplomb, settling in soon after his arrival and leading Boca to the domestic double.
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 who have grown to appreciate the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for its history, gritty displays and penchant for upsets, the Washington chapter can deliver on all those counts and more.
When Sounders FC pulls into the StubHub Center’s track venue for the quarterfinal date with the Galaxy, it will almost be like old, old times. Like when a Seattle side first ventured into southern California for a quarterfinal that, incidentally, was 50 years ago. Spoiler alert: Seattle did OK. That day, anyway. But more on that later.