Fernando Clavijo on friendship with Brian Schmetzer that goes back to indoor days

By Ridge Mahoney

Whenever FC Dallas plays Seattle, former teammates Fernando Clavijo and Brian Schmetzer make time for each other.

After winning several indoor titles together with the MISL San Diego Sockers, they embarked on coaching careers. Long before Schmetzer took over for Sigi Schmid and led Seattle to the MLS Cup title last year, he played for Clavijo and worked as his assistant coach with the Seattle SeaDogs of the Continental Indoor Soccer League.

The SeaDogs ended their three-year existence with a CISL title in 1997, and as a head coach Schmetzer won two USL titles with the Sounders prior to the arrival of MLS in 2009. Since taking over for Schmid, Schmetzer has compiled a record of 23-10-15 in MLS play, including playoffs.

When Clavijo spoke to Soccer America Friday morning, the FC Dallas technical director was on his way to have lunch with Schmetzer and talk about the decades that have passed since their children played together in the same apartment complex while they were teammates in San Diego.

Fernando Clavijo

Playing together and living as neighbors: “You had no excuse.”

We would go to McDonald’s for breakfast, have a cheese Danish and coffee, repeated over and over again, dozens of times. You get to know the player and you get to know the individual, and on a team you don’t always get a chance to do that.

Our apartments were maybe 10 to 15 yards apart so our kids were always running around together. My son Jonathan had a toy car when he was about 4 and he would ride in it with Daniela, Brian’s oldest daughter.

It was a great way to live and I think the teams did that to help the players feel more comfortable. And, if you could not miss practice if your car wouldn’t start because someone else was going too, so you had no excuse to miss practice or be late.

I may have one of those selective memories but I don’t remember being late for anything. Brian and I we would go early and play head tennis for 45 minutes or an hour, so we were never late. But he is a couple of years younger than me, so his memory could be better.  Could be. (Editor's note: Schmetzer is 55, Clavijo 61.)

Picking up the tab for lunch: “He’s paying.”

He’s in a better position in the table, so of course he pays. That’s only fair, right? He doesn’t know it yet but he’s paying.

It’s a lifetime of memories, great memories to be honest with you. To have played with him, to have coached him, and to have worked with him as coaches, that’s unique. So I know Brian not only as a friend but as a very good person to work with.

Schmetzer, the player: “Every game was like his final game.”

When we played indoor, he was left back and I was right back, up and down. He was physical, man, and because he played that way he was hurt a lot. He was brutal. But he was one of those guys who played every game like it was his final game.

You don’t see left backs any more like Brian. We played in NASL [outdoor], too, he was skinny at the time -- not now because they made us play with weights -- and a lefty who crossed the ball extremely well. He was hard but extremely knowledgeable. He didn’t have a bundle of speed but he positioned himself well and his tackling was hard.

Schmetzer, the coach: “I was never able to attract him.”

After we worked together in Seattle, I tried to get him to Colorado to be my assistant, I tried to get him to New England to be my assistant. He was running a business back home in Seattle, so it was bread and butter for him. So I was never able to attract him, but not because I didn’t want him.

He was one of the candidates also for me in Dallas when we were searching for coaches. I know his quality as a man, and I know his quality as a coach. He needed to be give the opportunities and him winning the championship right away, I was proud. I was really proud of the compliments he is getting.

As an assistant coach sometimes you see things the head coach doesn’t see or you learn things about players that you can use to put it together and make it work. The players play for him and they respect him.

Brian Schmetzer

Schmetzer and his strong ties to Seattle: “I’m glad they gave him the job.”

He was bypassed by many people because they thought, ‘He’s never going to move away from Seattle.’ I always told him, ‘Don’t get tied, so people think you will only coach in Seattle.’ He knows his potential, he knows his quality, but maybe he doesn’t sell himself enough. So when the Sounders hired him, he had already been a head coach at the USL level and had been in Seattle forever.

Sometimes you can look around so much you don’t see what’s in front of you. I’m glad they hired him and gave him the job when Sigi left because he has all the qualities to be a good coach.
He has put his own imprint on the team. He is direct but fair. He communicates very well with his players and that is the key.

Being at the game in Seattle: “After 90 minutes we can go back to being friends.”

I can sit on the bench but I don’t think it is a good idea, because I might say something or do something to get me fined. I will watch from a technical box. I hope I see Brian before the game and maybe I kick him in the knee. After the 90 minutes, we can go back to being friends.

1 comment about "Fernando Clavijo on friendship with Brian Schmetzer that goes back to indoor days".
  1. Ginger Peeler, September 16, 2017 at 5:15 p.m.

    Brian, Fernando, Steve Jungul, Julie Veer, Branko Segota, Waad Hirmez! We had season tickets to the San Diego Soccers in the the 80s and 90s, both before and after the outdoor professional leagues folded. But the indoor game carried on and what an awesome game it was. The incredible skills those men possessed! Sometimes, in practice, I'd see my daughter try a move Zungul had made the night before in a game. It worked for her just as it had for Zungul in the game. As I recall, some of the shots on goal were clocked in the 80 mph range. And shots were banked off of the side boards, just as you do in pool. When Hirmez scored a goal, he'd "walk the boards". When Tatu, playing for Dallas, scored a goal, he'd rip off his shirt and throw it to the crowd. Sure, it had a definite aspect of theater. But those were skilled athletes out on the floor with good soccer brains. I am so fortunate to have been there for so much of the Sockers Dynasty.

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