For a few years now, the surest bet in Seattle is that the Sounders won’t win the MLS Cup with you as their coach. I know because I make this bet every year. I’m almost getting tired of taking my friends’ money. But they’re just so gullible—like many a Sounders fan who, seven years ago, hardly knew what soccer was before they dropped $90 on replica jerseys and match-specific scarves and learned the offside rule. (Sorta.)
So as you prepare for the first match of the new season on March 6, I write to you as a fan of the game, the team, and our proud soccer city, and ask: Am I going to win this bet again, or will you finally wake up, impart some urgency into the squad, and take us to the championship?
How you kept your job after 2013—when we only won one of the first seven and none of the last seven—is beyond me. But you have your supporters and they seem to really like regular season wins. They say, “He’s not a bad coach. He’s won the most games in MLS history!” Oh, really? Neat. Do you get little medals for each W?
The Sounders have finished in the top four of the Western Conference every year. They’ve won four Open Cup trophies. And just in 2014 the team claimed its first Supporter’s Shield for having the league’s overall best record. You know, this actually sounds like a really good professional soccer club…in England, where they don’t have playoffs.
See, if the MLS had but one conference, like the Premier League’s single-table structure, I wouldn’t be writing this letter. Instead, and this feels really weird to write, I’d probably have a framed picture of you in my hallway. You’d be a sort of legend for finding a way to conquer the game despite having never played it professionally. Unfortunately, as any sports fan will tell you, part of the deal with coaching in America is that nothing matters without meaningful postseason success.
Really, you don’t know how good you have it. In the Premier League last year, Chelsea’s manager, José Mourinho, led the Blues to the league title in May and just seven months later was fired because of a terrible start to their new season. Where you—after seven years of teasing this city—have mastered the art of the slow start and the slow fade and remain firmly in place. If only we all had that kind of job security.
People say you’re a nice guy—that you put your heart and soul into it, that you truly want nothing more than to get the Sounders to an MLS Cup. Fine, I believe that. But since when has wanting something been enough? Do you also wish on stars? Throw coins in fountains? Grab squirrels by the tail and swing them in circles? Sorry, getting off topic here.
Look, I was at the 2009 inaugural game. I celebrated in the stands during Open Cup Final victories. I’ve held season tickets. These were good times. And I’ve seen glimpses of a team that looks—what’s the word?—motivated. But we gotta see the Sounders play like they care all season long. And through the playoffs. So this year, when the cameras cut to you, yank that scarf off and look alive!
You said something in 2013 that has stuck with me: “A coach always has his bags packed.” Is that true? Well, whatever, here’s to a strong season and a first-ever, long-awaited, we-break-so-many-attendance-records-and-deserve-it MLS Cup appearance. If not, I hope those clothes you packed are still in style.
Seattle Met design director, 2011–2013