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SHOW DE COLOGNE: Sounders Take a "Hans On" Approach
By Steve MacClare, Prost Amerika
January 12, 2009

"German spoken here"

    With the official appointment of Tübingen born Sigi Schmid as Sounders head coach, the Sounders FC management team is beginning to take shape, and there is a strong German influence already at the helm of the new franchise. Although Schmid moved to Torrance California when he was nine, he proved his German language skills are as strong as ever at his press conference as he answered questions in perfect German with a strong Swabian accent. He stated that he still has good contacts in the Bundesliga, a quality that may yet prove valuable as he seeks to complete his playing squad. 

    But Schmid is just the start of the German influence. Many of the USL Sounders hardcore were delighted to receive the announcement that he had taken on USL Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer as his assistant. Schmetzer is Seattle born but a first generation immigrant from Germany. His father Walter played lower league football in Germany’s third tier. Brian is a little more reluctant to “sprechen Sie deutsch” than Sigi but it is clear that they have a useful tool to communicate with when prying opposition ears attempt to overhear tactics. Brian’s brother runs a sports shop Germanically called called ‘Sporthaus Schmetzer’ which is a very loyal supporter of soccer in the Puget Sound area.

    But the German influence is far from over with that. Last Friday, former Kansas City Wizards employee David Tenney became Sounders FC’s new fitness coach. Tenney’s professional career began overseas in 1992  with Germany’s SV Linx who play in the city of Rheinau, Baden-Württemberg and he moved on to FC Rastatt 04 in Baden-Baden a year later.

    However, if they try and keep secrets from their players, they might need to take goalkeeper Kasey Keller into their confidence. Keller ended his European odyssey in Nordrhein Westphalia with Borussia Mönchengladbach. He demonstrated his linguistic abilities at his press conference by adeptly handling questions in both German and Spanish. If he handles crosses as adeptly next season, Sounders FC won’t be conceding many goals from corners.

    But the German influence is not new. Last year’s Sounders captain Danny Jackson is a proud Yorkshireman, a native of Leeds. Less well known is that he has a German mother and can speak the language fairly well when pressed. His extended family still live there and he travels to Germany twice a year, spending much of his summer and holiday time there. He says he has no problem conversing when over there, but gets little chance to speak now. Well, if he gets a MLS call up, he might find he has plenty of opportunity in the future.

    What of Adrian Hanauer? His family owns Pacific Coast Feather Co., a bedding products manufacturer that was originally founded in 1884 in Germany, but is currently headquartered in Seattle. He once told me he was a reader of Prost Amerika in the days it only published soccer articles in German so he may well have some ability here.

    Of course the European influence doesn’t end at the Rhine. Sweden’s Freddie Ljungberg is Seattle’s most famous acquisition and is a household name in England. And despite his stated desire to one day play for the USA, Sébastien le Toux is a Frenchman. With more players to come in after the college draft, we may not have seen the last of the Europeans arriving at Qwest Field. One thing is sure, Prost Amerika’s translators will have to be up to scratch this season as some very important eyes may be watching.

    Meanwhile over in England, Manchester United entertained Chelsea last Sunday. A surprisingly comfortable 3-0 win over a lackluster Chelsea side has propelled Ferguson’s side onto Liverpool’s shoulders. Liverpool were disappointing in a 0-0 draw at Stoke on Saturday and now United stand just five games behind Liverpool with two games in hand. Chelsea look dispirited and must quickly get their bandwagon back on track before the two northern giants leave them trailing too far behind.

    Former Seattle Sounder Harry Redknapp looked fairly distraught after Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat at Wigan. With no wins in their last five league games, Spurs find themselves in the relegation zone behind more likely freefall candidates like Stoke, Middlesbrough and Sunderland. With only one league game in the next 16 days, against Portsmouth next Sunday, Tottenham fans are going to find studying the league table a painful activity for the foreseeable future. Redknapp’s former side Portsmouth are just three points above Spurs, and defeat there would be a huge blow for the North London side. Wigan move up to a creditable seventh, but face a midweek trip to Old Trafford to play Manchester United.

    Next week, bottom side West Bromwich Albion entertain Middlesbrough in the game with the biggest impact on the relegation zone. A surprise win for West Brom would increase the pressure on Boro boss Gareth Southgate.

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