BELLEVUE — Brian Schmetzer knows what it's like to join professional soccer at a young age.
Schmetzer signed his first pro contract with the Seattle Sounders at the age of 17, right out of Nathan Hale High School in 1980.
Now Schmetzer, 39, is on the other side of the equation after the Sounders introduced the Lake City native as their coach yesterday morning at team headquarters. Schmetzer gets his first chance as a professional head coach, and it will be his job to develop more young talent for Sounders management and put a quality team on display.
"I kind of came up with a catch-phrase for the style that I want to play, and that's 'A young American style,' " said Schmetzer, who brings 17 years of pro experience as a player to the job and two stints with the Sounders in 1980-81 and 1994. "We want to bring young Americans to this club and try and teach them. They are already accomplished players when they come to us. But can we teach them more? I think we can."
Schmetzer, who follows Bernie James, is the franchise's fourth coach since it returned in 1994 after a 10-year hiatus. James was fired after team went 13-12-1 in the A-League and 17-13-2 overall to miss the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons, but he was dismissed mainly for not developing and playing younger talent.
"We've been an admirer of Brian's for a long time," Sounders CEO and co-owner Neil Farnsworth said. "The biggest thing that impresses me about Brian is his approach to younger players, and that's very important to me. We need to develop young players.
"Quality-wise, they get better the younger they are now. We've got to take those top youth players and move them into the professional ranks and show them how to be professionals. Brian has the ability to do that."
The Sounders' roster for the 2002 season shouldn't change drastically, according to Schmetzer, but A-League rosters change constantly, with players moving up to Major League Soccer and new signees coming aboard.
"We'll be focused on developing younger players and playing an attacking offensive style," Schmetzer said. "We still want see players go on and play in the MLS."
The new Sounders coach sees much of the talent coming from his own backyard.
"There have been a slew of good players come from this area and done extremely well on a national level," Schmetzer said. "I will be sticking hopefully with all local players. It will be my job to find younger players to hopefully push them onto that national stage.
"Seattle University, SPU and the University of Washington are turning out good soccer players every year. Just with those three institutions, I could field a good team."
Not everybody is cut out to make that jump, Schmetzer cautions. "There is a big challenge from being a good college player to being a good pro," he said.
Schmetzer won seven state titles in youth soccer while playing for his father, Walter Sr. Schmetzer's brothers Andy and Walter Jr. both played professional soccer. Andy is an assistant for the Cleveland Crunch of the National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) and Walter Jr. runs two family stores for Sporthaus Schmetzer, the area's first soccer-only shop that his father opened in 1975.
Schmetzer comes to the Sounders after two years as coaching director for the Seattle-based Emerald City FC. During his playing days, the former Sounder also played with the Tacoma Stars of the Major Indoor Soccer League from 1988-90 and the Seattle SeaDogs of the Continental Indoor Soccer League from 1995-97 as a player-coach.
When the SeaDogs won the CISL title in 1997, Schmetzer was an assistant coach to Fernando Clavijo.
"I'm actually 2-0 as a head coach," Schmetzer joked of his SeaDogs days. "I coached when Fernando had to sit out a game after a red card and then in an exhibition."
• Sounders General Manger Adrian Hanauer said that a new artificial surface should be in place for the team's home field at Memorial Stadium by late May or early June, in time for most of the Sounders' home games. "We're 90-95 percent sure on that," Hanauer said of the new surface. "We're hoping it will be FieldTurf."
The Sounders' season starts in early May, but the official A-League schedule has not yet been released for 2002.