Sigi Schmid finally met his end on Tuesday, fired after seven-and-a-half seasons in Seattle with his Sounders 21 points behind Western Conference-leading FC Dallas, ten points below the red line, and just one point out of last place.
It was a position that even a manager of Schmid’s stature couldn’t survive – especially not after Seattle failed to register a single shot until the 88th minute on Saturday against Sporting Kansas City in an unforgivably indifferent 3-0 loss.
How’d we get here? Certainly, the Sounders’ sale of Obafemi Martins to China right before the start of the season was a crushing blow. And had Schmid turned just one of his seven playoff appearances with Seattle into an MLS Cup, he still might have the benefit of the doubt and a job today.
But the start of the Sounders’ dramatic descent can be traced back to a single day: June 16, 2015 – the date of the Sounders’ fourth round US Open Cup matchup against the Portland Timbers at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila, Washington.
Until that point, the 2015 Sounders were cruising – one of the best teams in the league, and a good bet to defend their Supporters’ Shield title before taking another shot at MLS Cup.
But that Open Cup game would prove to be the beginning of the end.
Good Timbers teams have always brought out an element of manic self-destruction in the Sounders – Portland fans fondly recall several meetings in the fall of 2013 – but this would go beyond the scope of anything previously imaginable.
Seattle had beaten Portland three times in 2014, including a win at Starfire at this very stage of the Open Cup, but this was a different Timbers team.
Portland took the lead through Diego Valeri just after halftime, and then watched as Brad Evans got himself sent off for an ugly foul on Jorge Villafaña. But Seattle, through Martins, equalized and sent the game to extra time. It’d be the costliest goal in Sounders history.
Martins would be forced off injured after a collision with Darlington Nagbe, and, with Schmid out of substitutions, Seattle went down to nine men.
It was only a matter of time before the Timbers capitalized, and, sure enough Rodney Wallace would score what would be the winner in the 100th minute. But the Sounders wouldn’t go quietly.
Michael Azira got his marching orders for stomping on Gaston Fernandez, after which Clint Dempsey grabbed the referee’s notebook and threw it on the ground – earning a yellow card – and then ripped it in half for a red.