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Originally published Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Sounders coach Sigi Schmid brings championship experience to new club

Seattle Sounders FC welcomed Sigi Schmid to town as the club's first head coach Tuesday, and Schmid was emotional with his opening comments.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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A team. Official colors, uniforms and a sponsor. Players. A scheduled season-opening match on national TV. And now, a coach.

Seattle Sounders FC introduced Sigi Schmid as its first coach Tuesday with a news conference at Qwest Field, and Schmid made an emotional first impression. Schmid fought back tears expressing his happiness at being reunited with his brother Roland, who lives in the Seattle area.

Schmid also shared his excitement about his new job. He agreed to a multiyear contract (the team would not disclose the number of years or the compensation) with the Sounders after three seasons at the helm for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer, and brings 28 seasons of professional and college coaching experience to the position.

During those years, Schmid, 55, won two MLS Cups (Columbus in 2008 and the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2002) and three NCAA championships with UCLA in 1985, 1990 and 1997.

"To be the first head coach of this franchise ... to see what this club is doing behind the scenes — the organization, the structure, the commitment to the community and the sport of soccer — is beyond what's happening anywhere in this entire country," Schmid said, "and I think that's something that I was really excited to be associated with."

Then Schmid began to talk of his brother, and broke down momentarily.

Before their lives took different turns, the Schmid brothers bonded over the death of their mother, Doris, 32 years ago.

"There's always been a bond between us because of that," said Schmid, who is 10 years older than Roland. "So being able to know that he's around and his family is around and I've got nephews, nieces in the area as well, certainly makes it a great situation. And knowing that you always have family in the area, it was great.

"It's great to know that I will see him [Roland] on a consistent basis. And he might even attend a few games, if not all of them."

Schmid's style of play might have many more people attending games.

Under Schmid, Seattle will play creative and attacking soccer, Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer said.

"This is truly a defining moment for our franchise," Hanauer said. "Sigi understands Major League Soccer perhaps better than anybody on the planet, and clearly this is a huge benefit as we move forward. So, not to put undue pressure on Sigi, but as our [ownership] partner Joe Roth said eloquently, 'Sigi's the only coach to win MLS championships with two different MLS teams. We plan on being the third.' "

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Schmid came to the Seattle area and met with Hanauer, Roth and other team executives earlier this month. The meeting led to contract negotiations as Schmid became the leading candidate to become coach.

A tampering charge and a noncompete clause in Schmid's former contract with Columbus halted contract talks with Sounders FC, but last week those were resolved.

Schmid has known Hanauer for several years and Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson for about 20 years, dating to when Henderson played for Schmid at UCLA.

Schmid's first priority is to put together a staff of assistants, one that is likely to include former United Soccer Leagues Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer.

"I've known Brian for a lot of years. I feel very comfortable with him," Schmid said. "In terms of his situation, that's a decision that I want to make fairly quickly here."

José Miguel Romero: 206-464-2409 or jromero@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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