Soccer is no longer predictable for Andy Rose.
The former Seattle Sounders midfielder is back as a first-year assistant coach, accepting the position earlier this month. Now walking into a room as part of Brian Schmetzer’s technical staff instead of a player, Rose must be ready for anything.
“I give him grief every day,” Schmetzer said with a nebulous smile. Rose began his MLS career with the Sounders from 2012 to 2015 when the late Sigi Schmid was the head coach and Schmetzer was an assistant.
“I put (Andy) under pressure in the coaches’ office. I put his feet to the fire,” Schmetzer continued after an intrateam scrimmage at Lumen Field on Thursday. “When I walk in there (now), the first question I’m going to ask is, ‘Hey, Andy, how did you think the game went?’ ”
Well, coach Rose?
“Some of the young players were really energetic, really enthusiastic,” Rose told media. “We’re really trying to figure out individuals, which ones can make it to the next step. For the first-team players coming back in, a big part was about fitness and building that base. We’re missing a lot of guys, so can they stamp that authority on the group and show that leadership that we need because there’s so many young players in camp.”
The most important observation last week was self-reflective – Rose wasn’t overwhelmed with the urge to play. He’s just two months removed from his MLS playing career, starting in the Vancouver Whitecaps’ playoff loss to Sporting Kansas City.
But when Schmetzer’s 2021 staff was gutted by the departures of longtime assistants Gonzalo Pineda and Djimi Traore in August, Rose started thinking about retirement. Pineda left to become the head coach for Atlanta United while Traore heads an international academy in Denmark.
The Sounders immediately reached out to Vancouver for permission to talk to Rose about the position, also fielding inquiries from a host of other candidates. After a thorough vetting process, Schmetzer said he settled on Rose, 31, because of his youthfulness, experience and their shared trust in each other.
Rose filled the final spot on Schmetzer’s staff. Freddy Juarez, 43, left his position as head coach for Real Salt Lake in August to accept the other vacant assistant coaching position. Juarez also played and is fluent in Spanish.
Preki, a former MLS Coach of the Year, and goalkeeping director Tom Dutra round out Schmetzer’s revamped staff.
“It was important midway through last season that I understood that (I could be retiring) and wrapped my head around that and what it meant playing-wise,” Rose said. He started 58 of his 106 appearances across all competitions for the Sounders, scoring 10 goals. He left for Europe to test other playing styles, joining the Whitecaps in 2019 where he transitioned to center back and totaled three goals and three assists in 60 matches.
“I tried to enjoy every single training session as much as possible and every opportunity to play, feeling like it could be my last,” he said. “Maybe that itch will come a little bit later on, but I’m so focused on the work, on planning sessions and helping any way I can. Building this new trust and relationship with each player. I want to be somebody that they feel very comfortable to connect with and talk about their own individual games.”
Rose, who’s studying for his UEFA coaching license, started coaching the Vancouver academy’s U-17 team last year. He adapted to a coach’s typical long day by training with the first team in the mornings and leading the youth in the afternoons.
It’s a budding skill set that Traore mastered, helping defender Nouhou work his way to becoming an MLS All-Star center back last season. Pineda was often credited with innovative in-game tactical decisions.
But Schmetzer said he isn’t divvying duties like what was apparent when Pineda and Traore – both former Sounders players – helped the club reach three MLS Cup finals, winning the championship in 2019. Traore was also part of the 2016 MLS Cup win.
Sounders forward Will Bruin spotted some similarities with the addition of Rose. Bruin joined the Sounders in 2017 and tested Rose’s defending skills as Cascadia rivals.
“As a player, when you have somebody that just came from your side onto the coaching staff, it’s almost more personable,” Bruin said. “Some people feel more comfortable around a coach who’s a little younger and can kind of relay a message secondhand. It’s a good transition for some of the young guys to feel more comfortable talking to somebody else like them.”
Rose has the benefit of being part of the Sounders season since Day 1. Juarez was brought in as the team was still in contention for the Leagues Cup championship, Cascadia Cup, top seed in the Western Conference and an outside chance at the Supporters’ Shield.
“It was game, after game, after game,” Juarez said. “There’s a style of play here. There’s a game model that Brian likes. I wanted to see it and take a look at it so I can see how I can then help the group in training sessions, games and video. I can finally take a breath and understand the whole scenario and how it works.”
Rose also described himself as sponge, ready to soak up all the knowledge he can from a coaches’ room stuffed with experience. Similar to Rose’s 2015 season in Seattle, the Sounders will mesh goals for a deep run in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament with winning another league title.
Yet as a coach, Rose will have to look out for the unpredictable parts of helping to lead a talented and ambitious team.
“This is what I wanted to have happen, but, of course, you’re never quite sure,” Rose said. “When I got the call from Schmetz to officially offer me the role, I was over the moon. It’s exactly the next step I wanted to take.”