Although we know a lot about Brian Schmetzer, come Feb. 28 it’s certain we will know a lot more.
That evening Washington State Legends of Soccer is presenting Brian Schmetzer: This Is Your Life at The Market Arms in Ballard, and the lineup of guests promises to reveal a few more ingredients to the Schmetz special sauce.
Of course, we are fully aware of his opening act as Sounders FC head coach. You know, when in mid-summer Schmetzer somehow righted a listing ship and steadily steered it through stormy waters, finally bringing home the bounty of an MLS Cup. We are also cognizant that Brian was born and raised in Lake City. It’s what happened along the way in connecting those two events that Tuesday night’s audience will absorb.
Of all the salutary-type matches chronicled in Seattle’s colorful soccer annals, the Mar. 1 Zach Scott Testimonial will check all the boxes.
Here you have a sweat-drenched, workmanlike player who wrung every ounce out of his career, who is devoted to his adopted community and who serves as an inspiration to every kid who wonders whether there’s a place in the pro game for a bulldog bent on out-working all comers to earn that roster spot, again and again and again.
It’s pretty obvious why producers created the original This Is Your Life program. Someone attending a wake or memorial wondered why all the good tales are told a tad too late for the honoree.
Hmm, posed the producer. ‘Why not share stories when he’s a man in full, closer to halftime than full-time?’
That’s why the Washington State legends of Soccer believe Feb. 28 is precisely the right time to present, Brian Schmetzer: This Is Your Life.
There, on the eve of his first full season in charge of Sounders FC – and as MLS Cup holder – Schmetzer’s past will be brought forward to the present by a bunch of friends, family, teammates, coaches and peers. All of this will prompt some undoubtedly juicy accounts. And you’re invited to listen in.
Wanted: Someone to supervise 300 kids 24/7 during summer, take 22 rowdy college boys cross-country to win a soccer championship in the fall, marry a couple on Saturday, christen a newborn on Sunday, keynote a corporate speech to hundreds first thing Monday and pull votes for a stadium initiative on Tuesday. Ten fingers not necessary. Sense of humor a must.
Unless your name happens to be Charles Clifford McCrath, there’s no need to apply.
On Saturday, Feb. 11, a true treasure of Seattle and soccer, Cliff McCrath, will be inducted into Seattle Pacific University’s Falcon Legends Hall of Fame. McCrath knows the drill. After all, it’s his 10th such enshrinement around the country.
Unlike the others, however, this will be celebrated on his turf, where since arriving 47 years ago he grew to be an outsized figure capable of accomplishing amazing feats for a sport that, at times, struggled to take hold.
When Seattle Pacific soccer alumni of a certain age inevitably gather, there’s no shortage of stories.
From tales of seemingly endless cross-country road trips to innumerable narratives regarding their leader, Uncle Nubby, there is plenty of fodder. And while hundreds of alums experienced final fours and dozens contributed to the Falcons’ five championships, there’s a certain reverence for those who did it first.
By winning the 1978 NCAA Division II championship, SPU set in motion a Puget Sound tidal surge that would extend for more than 15 years and, some would argue, unceasingly to this date.
Upon returning home from Miami in early December of ‘78, Falcons coach Cliff McCrath, a.k.a. Nubby, took fast action on two counts. The first remains the most sensational and storied publicity stunt in our soccer community’s long and distinguished history. The second was to affirm the source of bounty McCrath molded into champions.
It was plain to see that Seattle Pacific was the beneficiary of leadership and coaching throughout Washington youth soccer, so he immediately drafted a letter to the statewide association.
“Eight of the starters came from the area,” McCrath notes. “Effectively, this national championship belonged to them; it was dedicated to them because these were their players.”
Many will dream, some will endeavor, but only one can be the first.
While the Sounders may now place a star above their crest, the side that first planted a flag at the summit in the name of Seattle is now about to be celebrated all over again.
On Feb. 11 Seattle Pacific University will induct the team that not only ushered in an era when the Falcons became the Northwest’s most decorated collegiate program but, more importantly, established a beacon, a belief, that teams from Puget Sound could be the best in the nation.
For nearly the first hundred years of soccer’s existence in Washington, it was a wilderness. Try as they might, to the rest of the land teams from these parts were unfashionable wannabes: Competitive within the region, yet not championship material. In 1978, SPU changed all that.
Simply put, in one muggy, arduous afternoon under a scorching Miami sun, a bunch of shaggy-haired boys under the direction of a seven-fingered coach blazed a trail into the future of Seattle area soccer that generations have followed ever since.
A Formidable Foe
Now as then, the opposition is oft-referenced as the Nigerian junior national team. In truth, Alabama A&M’s roster was only about half-Nigerian. But most of them started and the balance were largely Jamaican. The Bulldogs were defending NCAA Division II champion and ranked No. 7 among all divisions nationally. They would retake the mantle in 1979 and two years later, in 1981, AA&M would be Div. I runners-up.
It’s now been two years since I began my blog and returned to writing about soccer, mostly in a Washington-centric, historical context.
Sure, there could be a compendium of such abstract topics published in a book someday. But why not share some of it soon, not later. Here, then, are XV pieces that appeared either on my blog or other digital outlets during 2016. I enjoyed researching and writing them, and hopefully you enjoy them as well.
Once you’ve lived through an epic turnaround, your faith becomes stronger. And for reasons illustrated in this Seattle Times feature, I always held out hope the Sounders would overcome all the adversity and play for a championship. As it turned out, they did their predecessors one better by winning the final.
While broader views of this past year are as mixed as imaginable, there’s no mistaking 2016 as vintage in terms of Washington teams’ feats on the pitch. National championships at the professional and collegiate levels, along with some watershed seasons for certain programs, made this a year to remember for many.
Here are a few teams who will treasure the memories of 2016 because it was a very, very good year.
Western Washington women – If the perfect season is to finish a campaign unbeaten, untied and No. 1 in the nation, then the Vikings were almost perfect. They reeled off 24 consecutive victories after an opening draw to win their first NCAA Division II crown. Western (24-0-1) had been knocking on the door for three seasons before ending Grand Valley State’s three-year reign with three sensational strikes from distance in the title match.
Sounders FC – Left for dead in late July, Seattle made a coaching change and the addition of one very special Uruguayan maestro brought about a reversal of fortune for the ages. Never mind losing their most goal-dangerous player, the Sounders went 12-3-5 down the stretch to reward the land’s largest fan base with the first top-flight championship.
Seattle United B98 Copa – One of the special youth sides in state history, United nearly came all the way back from a national runner-up finish. As it was these U17s easily repeated as state and regional champion before being stopped the semifinals of the US Youth Soccer Association Championships on penalties. It will be interesting to watch how some of these players figure in our state’s soccer future.
When he takes his place on the terra firma of BMO Field on Saturday night, the mission of Jordan Morris is to do whatever it takes for the Sounders to bring home the Anschutz Trophy.
Win the ball. Hold the ball. Connect. Cover and mark bigs on Reds set plays. Set-up or score a goal, all the better. But just win.
It would be Seattle’s first such championship in the top flight of North American soccer, and it would obviously hold extra special meaning to a Mercer Islander who grew up watching the boys in Rave. And given Puget Sound’s proclivity for producing top-class players, it would be a fantasy come true for fans, to see a homegrown lad lift MLS Cup.
If the weather forecast holds true for MLS Cup 2016, it will easily set a new Sounders FC standard for chill factor.
Temperatures are likely to drop into the mid-20s for first kick at Toronto’s BMO Field after a daytime high of 29 degrees. With winds expected to reach 9 MPH, the windchill will make it feel closer to 10 degrees.
To date, the coldest kickoff for a Seattle match is 34, set for the second leg of the 2014 Western Conference Final at CenturyLink Field (those who attended the 2013 UW-New Mexico men’s quarterfinal on Montlake may recall it was 27 at kickoff). Continue reading Buddy, It’ll Be Cold Out There→