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Originally published Friday, September 30, 2005 at 12:00 AM

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Sounders

Coach's direct approach guides Sounders to USL First Division final

Brian Schmetzer gets up every morning and piles his two teenagers into his Chevy Suburban to take them to Bishop Blanchet High School. On the road, the...

Special to The Seattle Times

Brian Schmetzer gets up every morning and piles his two teenagers into his Chevy Suburban to take them to Bishop Blanchet High School.

On the road, the Sounders coach uses his cellphone to check on the construction business he owns with former Sounder Dick McCormick.

Then his busy day gets busier.

Before mid-morning or afternoon practices, Schmetzer discusses strategy and personnel decisions with assistant coach Jimmy Gabriel over coffee. In addition to making decisions for the Sounders, Schmetzer coaches two youth teams, under-16 and -17 boys teams for Emerald City FC.

For the tireless Schmetzer, there's always time for soccer.

"I have a busy life, but that's the way it is for most soccer players or coaches at this level," said Schmetzer, who turned pro with the Sounders out of Seattle's Nathan Hale High School in 1980. "I have a wife and three kids. Two of my kids are in a private school, and one is in college at UW. I can't wait for a day when I can slow down a little bit."

That tireless work ethic has pushed Schmetzer and his beloved Sounders all the way to the United Soccer Leagues First Division championship tomorrow. Seattle (18-8-12) makes its second consecutive title appearance against the Richmond Kickers (14-10-9) at Qwest Field at 8 p.m.

Tomorrow

USL First Division title match: Seattle vs. Richmond at Quest Field, 8 p.m.

Soccer has enriched Schmetzer's life, even if it hasn't made him rich.

"Soccer players have always had to look after themselves, because in our leagues you can't pay them enough," Schmetzer said. "A lot of our players coach two different teams for extra money."

The pay could be better, but the experience of playing the game has shaped Schmetzer and helped him transfer that toughness to his players.

"My teams are always game teams," he said. "I wasn't the fastest, strongest or biggest player, but I thought I was a smart soccer player. I turned average ability into a 15-plus-year career."

Over the years, the Sounders have been one of the city's most consistent professional sports franchises despite always carrying the label of a team playing in a second-level league. Schmetzer, 43, has upheld that tradition the past four seasons, guiding the Sounders to the league semifinals the last three years.

Tomorrow's title game marks the sixth time the club — original or current — played for the championship.

"I know [Schmetzer] was a feisty, hard-nosed, honest player and not one with the most talent," said Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer. "He knew his role during his career was to feed superstars, ones like Preki. He played with a lot of superstars and fit in. Part of his success as a coach is where he came from as a player."

In four seasons directing the Sounders, Schmetzer has an 80-38-25 record for a .646 win percentage.

"I came here to the Sounders for a purpose," he said. "I came here to win."

Schmetzer's busy schedule almost kept him from interviewing for the Sounders' vacant position in 2002.

"I called him and said, 'I'd like to talk to you about the Sounders,' " Hanauer said of his initial contact. "I don't think he had any idea that I was interested in him as a coach."

Schmetzer's only previous pro coaching experience was as an assistant with the Seattle SeaDogs, an indoor team.

When Gabriel retires from coaching after the championship, Schmetzer will be the last Sounder with a link to the original franchise. Schmetzer played for the Sounders from 1980 to '83 and then finished a productive 17-year indoor and outdoor playing career with the SeaDogs in '96.

Schmetzer has pushed the right buttons this season. He made several tough decisions, opting to move rookies he discovered in preseason tryouts into the starting lineup ahead of veterans.

"I see his confidence growing," Hanauer said of Schmetzer. "As far as personnel issues, he's taken a more firm stance. He knows he can put a team out there that can win and do it his way."

Schmetzer's success
Brian Schmetzer has coached the Sounders to the league finals the last two seasons. His year-by-year records:
Year Overall Playoffs
2005 18-8-12 USL first Division final
2004 18-13-5 Lost A-League final
2003 20-10-7 A-League semifinals
2002 24-7-1 A-League second round
Total 80-38-25 2 finals, 3 semifinals
Source: Seattle Sounders

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