The Seattle Sounders head coach now 60 years old with a league-record 182 regular-season wins to his credit joyfully took to his clubs training Saturday wearing tightly-laced adidas Copa Mundial cleats, something of an anachronistic relic from the past in the soccer world today.The German Copas have been with me since 1968, my first year in mens soccer, he quipped. I got a free pair of Copas and I havent bought a pair of soccer shoes since.
Dress shoes, unfortunately, he added, I spend too much money on.
And so it goes for Schmid, taxed with melding the old and the new and the grit and the glitz in Seattle, where the costs of playing the game are higher than ever after the recent signing of US national team star Clint Dempsey, and so are the expectations.
Schmid spoke with MLSsoccer.com senior editor Nick Firchau about Dempseys arrival and the pressure building in Seattle ahead of
MLSSOCCER.COM: The question most people want to know ahead of Sunday is pretty simple. How close are the Sounders to seeing the full ?
SCHMID: Fitness-wise, I think hes about 80-85 percent right now. And with that comes all the little things, and all those fine touches. He had a ball against Houston last week where . He couldnt get around it, and he just put it wide.
And his integration to the team is still going to take a couple games, but thats tough. Hell get those couple of games and then hes gone with the national team, and then we have to start right over again.
MLSSOCCER.COM: Its tough to say he really fell in your lap, because there was a significant financial investment here to bring him to Seattle. But it had to be an interesting way to acquire a player, since you didnt have to scout him or do some of that extra leg work.
SCHMID: Yeah, it was a nice present under the tree. The last time that happened I was in Los Angeles, and they asked me if I would want Luis Hernandez (in 2000). In this one, it was nice to acquire Clint and nice to get him here, and when they presented it to me I was going, well, sure!
At midseason, the way it came, it wasnt part of our long-term planning. It came up rather quickly. So now its just a matter of making sure everyone has the patience and is willing to give it time to mesh.
MLSSOCCER.COM: With the addition of a guy like Dempsey and the reported contract hes playing under in MLS, how much of a distraction is it to players on your team to know about the disparity in their salaries?
SCHMID: It all comes down to the individual. Its how the individual is and how he relates to his teammates. I can do whatever I want as a coach, I can stand on my head, but its the individual who determines that.
Clint is very down to earth, and hes not a guy who flaunts things, so from that standpoint hes fit in great with that team. And then theyre in that locker room theres no feeling towards him that, oh, hes making so much money. I think everyone understands how the league works, and there are always guys who want to make more money. There are guys on every team who are underpaid and there are guys on every team that are sometimes overpaid. But its all about the personality, and Clints personality is very good, so it hasnt been an issue.
MLSSOCCER.COM: How much of your job is managing the different personalities when it comes to this type of thing?
SCHMID: Its a big job for a coach, but its not like I have to go in there and meet with guys individually and say, hey, let me explain to you whats going on here. Sometimes you meet with a couple key individuals and get their thoughts and make sure theyre okay with things, and weve done that. Now its just a matter of guys personalities meshing.
MLSSOCCER.COM: When you left Columbus to take this job, did you ever imagine it would get to this point, where you look out and see three DPs, and Clint Dempsey andon your roster?
SCHMID: No, I didnt envision this at all. Even when I came here I thought things would be good and that the crowds would be consistent and supportive, 20-25,000 people for every game. But I never thought it would be 40,000. I never thought the fanbase would be as knowledgeable as it is, nor that the support would be as wide-ranging as it is.
And imagining I would have DPs of this quality guys who played in the EPL and Serie A it was something I hoped might be the case, but certainly, its been a pleasant surprise.READ:
MLSSOCCER.COM: With Dempsey here, do you feel this is the most pressure youve been under to win?
SCHMID: Theres always pressure here. And people are adding pressure because Clint is here, and now everyone thinks we should win it. But theres more that goes on than just adding one player getting a good group, making sure they can all work together and complement each other and those things are that will make a championship. But yes, certainly the expectations have risen.
MLSSOCCER.COM: Whats your relationship like with (Portland Timbers head coach) Caleb Porter?
SCHMID: Weve spoken a lot in the past. We havent spoken a lot this year, but when he was still coaching in college, we spoke a lot. We spoke a lot when he was thinking about taking the D.C. United job. We spoke a lot when he was with the Olympic team. Ive known Caleb since his days as an assistant at Indiana and even when he was still playing there.
This year, with him coaching down in Portland, though, we havent spoken a great deal. Hes sort of set his plan now, and he knows where hes headed.READ:
MLSSOCCER.COM: Theres a decent amount of buzz surrounding , to the point where there are people talking about his potential inclusion with the national team next summer in Brazil. Where do you fall on where he fits with the national team?SCHMID: I think DeAndre has done really well, and hes kept his feet on the ground. Its tough when youre a rookie and youre a Homegrown player playing in front of your own fans, and you have success early. He could have just flown away on that success and forgotten what got him here.
There are still a lot of things he can improve upon, and he knows that. Hes going to work on those things. But now if its a case of when he moves up to the full team, its a matter of when Jurgen thinks its right. Because if you throw a player in too early and he sinks, its very difficult for that player to come back. DeAndre did well with the Under-20s and he had a good Under-20 World Cup, but now he has to continue to grow and develop.
For me, 2018 is what he should be looking at. If things happen earlier by 2014, thats great for him. But he just to make sure hes ready, and we have to make sure we dont throw him in too early.
MLSSOCCER.COM: When it comes to the national team, where do you stand on players like John Brooks and Aron Johannson, and the idea that players who didnt come through the traditional American soccer system could feature for the US in the World Cup?
SCHMID: Every country is doing that now, so you have to accumulate the best players you can. I know Jurgen and his guys have been following Johannson a long time. Johannsons name got brought up to me well over a year ago, this guy in Iceland who could also play for America. People had seen him play and it was obvious that he could play. And Brooks name has obviously been bouncing around for a while as well.
If they are quality players and they have the ability to play for America, we cant turn out backs on them. Weve got to be able to accept them. And whether or not they come into the team late or early, that doesnt really mater. Can they help the team? Are they here early enough to help the team? Going forward, Jurgen is the only one who will answer that.