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Originally published Friday, May 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid takes aim at former team

Sigi Schmid won't say it directly but he badly wants to beat Columbus, his former team.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Saturday

Columbus @ Sounders FC, 7:30 p.m., Fox Soccer Ch.

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Sigi Schmid won't say it directly, but one of his assistant coaches will.

Schmid really wants to beat his former team, Ezra Hendrickson said Thursday after Sounders FC practice.

Hendrickson should know. The recently retired former defender played for Schmid in Los Angeles and Columbus, where Schmid guided the Crew to last year's Major League Soccer championship. The Crew comes to Seattle on Saturday to face Sounders FC and Schmid, who left Ohio to the dismay of many Crew supporters.

Some of those were folks who held signs in the airport when the team came back from winning the MLS Cup that called for Schmid to stay. But his contract with Columbus expired, and he was free to explore options.

The divorce from the Crew was messy. Schmid turned down its last offer to return, according to the club, and was at Seahawks headquarters about a week after the MLS Cup meeting with Sounders FC executives.

"That's a front-office decision, and that's the way the negotiations went," he said.

Just when Sounders FC appeared ready to announce Schmid as its first head coach, the Crew filed tampering charges with the league office and cited a clause in Schmid's contract that said he couldn't coach another MLS team in 2009.

The league investigated and found no evidence of tampering against Sounders FC, and Seattle paid the Crew allocation money to free Schmid from the noncompete contract clause and bring him west.

Schmid is clearly grateful to be in Seattle, but said leaving Columbus was difficult because he had helped build a team that in his third year as coach won a title.

"The way things happened, it is what it is, and so we move forward," he said. "I always have a saying that you always want to win when you play friends, because if you're playing somebody you don't know, you only hear about it that day. If you're playing friends, you hear about it for a long time."

Saturday's game, then, is for bragging rights, and Schmid thinks Crew coach Robert Warzycha, his former assistant, feels the same way.

Columbus (2-2-6) comes off a 2-1 win over San Jose on Wednesday but will be without defensive midfielder Brian Carroll, who injured his right shoulder in the game and is likely to need surgery. The Crew features the reigning MLS MVP, forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who has six goals.

Seattle's Brad Evans knows his former team well. Evans played for Schmid on the championship team in 2008 before being left unprotected by Columbus in the expansion draft.

"You always want to play against guys you've been with for two years, for sure, and kind of show them what we've got here," Evans said. "[Sigi] changed the whole thing around there."

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

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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