He commenced his career in Toronto, played for Canada’s Olympic and national teams, and has made the Great White North’s largest city his home. And yet on Saturday, despite never setting foot in CenturyLink Field, Jack Brand will bleed Rave Green.
“Some of my friends will curse me for that,” says Brand, “(but) my heart is with Seattle.”
It’s not so much the quantity of time Brand spent in Seattle in his earlier years. Rather, it is the quality of that tenure. He was part of something truly special, both in Sounders lore and the rebirth of the game with a semipro club comprised of local lads.
Brand, now 64, presides over his family’s business, based in nearby Mississauga. The Brand Felt Ltd. manufactures industrial felt for a multitude of industries, exporting worldwide. The German-born Brand, at 17, was sent abroad by his father, company founder Klaus Brand, to study in New York state. Although he had played for then-West Germany’s youth national team, his father forbade him from turning pro at the time.
Beckoned to Seattle
However, once he earned his degree, Jack got the green light to sign professionally and soon joined the New York Cosmos. He won a title alongside Franz Beckenbauer in 1978, and two years later was beckoned to Seattle by new coach Alan Hinton. That creased the cover of a storybook season for Hinton, Brand and the Sounders. That 1980 side won a NASL-record 25 games and seemed to produce highlight film footage with each outing, scoring 74 goals.
Meanwhile, Brand was a backstop extraordinaire. Brave and acrobatic, behind a stout backline he posted 15 shutouts, a Seattle record that has not been eclipsed in 37 years since.
“The only thing we ended up short of, was winning the championship,” recalls Brand. “It was a Cinderella team, and we set all sorts of records. That’s fine. But we also had a lot of fun. That is something, and it fits in with the beautiful environment of Seattle and the Northwest. It touched your heart; it was beautiful.”
Brand was never a slave to the game. Twice he walked away from it, knowing he could do better financially in the family business. Still, the ’80 Sounders were a unique collection of both talent and character.
One Extra-Special Season
“We came from all over the world. We hadn’t played together,” Brand explains. “We just found that friendship amongst each other. That’s my most memorable season, not so much in terms of winning, but in terms of camaraderie, togetherness, friendship. We basically did things as a team, on and off the field. For me, as a player, it means a lot. Those players are all dear in my heart.”
By then a naturalized Canadian citizen, Brand was voted the NASL North American Player of the Year and rapidly became a fan favorite. After a falling out with Hinton, he moved on to Tampa Bay to finish his pro career. One of his sons, however, was born in Mercer Island.
In 1984, following the original Sounders’ demise, he resurfaced in Seattle and became part of a new beginning. Brand played in goal for FC Seattle’s first season, a series of exhibitions versus remaining NASL clubs and the U.S. Olympic Team. When the club went from amateur to semipro the following year, he served as president. Among the club’s signings that summer were three midfielders named Schmetzer.
Meet the Schmetzers
Playing together for the first time were 18-year-old twins Andy and Walt Schmetzer, along with their older brother, Brian. In fact, Brand first met Brian when he was a Sounders high school signing in 1980.
“I remember Brian as a player,” Brand says. When the elder Schmetzer returned from his indoor gig in San Diego to play with FC Seattle and his siblings in 1985, he was coming into his prime. Seattle and the other Western Soccer Alliance teams were virtually all-American, as opposed to the NASL, which relied heavily on foreign players.
“The idea of FC Seattle was sort of the origin for what has eventually become MLS,” Brand notes. “I’m happy to see what MLS has become today, particularly being a great opportunity for North American players.”
And coaches. Brand says he couldn’t have envisioned the full stadiums in Seattle, Toronto and around MLS these days. While FC Seattle was dedicated to producing more and more professional-class local talent, Schmetzer’s appointment as coach and winning the championship shortly thereafter, was the stuff of dreams.
Completing the Cycle
“It’s wonderful; it’s the closing of the circle,” states Brand. “That’s the way it should be. There’s a boy, a local, homegrown kid, and he ends up with a fantastic career as a player, and now he’s the coach. Wonderful.”
Brand says a CLink match is on his bucket list. He watched last year’s MLS Cup Final which Seattle won (“A winner without goals,” he quips.), but business will take him out of town for the return engagement Saturday. “It sucks,” he complains.
“This is a top-notch, quality match, (but) when two good teams meet, usually the good players eliminate each other,” Brand offers. “To have a great match, it would be good to get 1-2 goals in the first half. If it drags on 0-0 for a long time, it becomes a tight match where every little centimeter on the pitch is fought for.”
Still a Sounder
Despite playing for the NASL Metros and knowing some people involved with Toronto FC, for this match he wouldn’t be among the walking Red.
“Toronto’s become my home, but if I had to pick between the two of them, because of my playing days, my heart is still in Seattle,” confesses Brand. “It’s a split, but I have more emotional attachment to the Seattle Sounders name.”