Just a few hours before the start of the 2011 Major League Soccer season, it was learned that Seattle Sounders Designated Player Blaise Nkufo was leaving the team. The following week, Fredy Montero suffered a wrist injury that required surgery and forced him to miss a couple weeks. On April 22 the Sounders lost Steve Zakuani to a broken leg. That also proved to be O'Brian White's final game, as it was soon learned he had a blood clot that would eventually cost him his season.
Just seven games into the season, the Sounders had lost four of their top offensive players, were 2-2-3 and their season seemed to be slipping away. Despite having as much financial resources as any team in the league, coach Sigi Schmid's hands were basically tied. The reality was, he was going to have to figure out how to salvage the season with the talent that was already at his disposal.
That's exactly what Schmid managed to do. Six months later, Schmid had led the Sounders to 63 points, finishing off the season on a 16-5-6 run. He did that all while navigating a schedule that included a league-high 12 non-MLS matches.
It's for all these reasons that SB Nation Soccer's editors named Schmid the MLS Coach of the Year. The Sounders coach narrowly beat out the Los Angeles Galaxy's Bruce Arena and Sporting Kansas City's Peter Vermes. Schmid was named the winner by eight editors and was named first, second or third on 19 of 25 ballots.
While Arena's team registered more points and Vermes arguably overcame some equally tough situations, Schmid's ability to manage his team without suffering any kind of appreciable drop off was simply stunning. Schmid used 26 different players in MLS competition and gave 21 players at least six MLS starts. That willingness to juggle lineups paid off handsomely, as 15 players scored at least one goal and 10 players registered at least four points (goals plus assists).
For a coach who has won two MLS Cups and two Coach of the Year awards, this may have been his most impressive job yet. A defensive coach by nature, Schmid showed a willingness to adapt his style to emphasize his more attack-minded personnel.
The Sounders ultimately led the league in goals scored with 56 and allowed just 37, the league's fourth-lowest total. Their +19 goal-difference was the sixth best total since 2002. In almost any other year, the Sounders would have won the Supporters' Shield.
Schmid may not have once again come up short in the playoffs, but this was a regular-season award. He may not have been the runaway winner, but he was clearly a very solid choice.