In a far from amicable split, Sigi Schmid said goodbye to the Columbus Crew in December after leading them to their first MLS Cup.
Now the coach of expansion club Seattle Sounders FC, Schmid looks to defeat his former team Saturday night at Qwest Field in the first matchup between the clubs.
After turning a 9-11-10 team in 2007 into MLS champs last season, Schmid said he was looking to re-sign with the Crew as his deal expired.
"It was hard to leave Columbus," he said during his introductory news conference with Seattle. "It was three years of building a team, and we had a very successful season. But things didn't proceed as I thought they were going to proceed (toward a new contract), and at that point, I decided to look at other opportunities that were out there."
Columbus filed tampering charges against Seattle, but after the league ruled in favor of the Sounders, Schmid -- last season's coach of the year -- was free to sign a multiyear deal with Seattle. The Sounders, however, paid the defending champs an unspecified amount to release the 56-year-old coach from a non-compete clause in his deal that would have prevented him from coaching this season.
Schmid's current club has tied its last four matches and is 1-0-4 in its past five. Last Saturday's 2-2 draw with Colorado was highlighted by Kasey Keller's spectacular play in net.
Fredy Montero and Nate Jaqua scored for the Sounders (4-2-4), but it was Seattle's 39-year-old goalkeeper that likely saved the match. Keller's diving stop in the 71st minute against midfielder Nick LaBrocca came five minutes before Jaqua scored the equalizer.
"I battle through it all and I do it every game," Keller said. "If you have that attitude, it's amazing how your form stays at a decent level."
Keller leads MLS with a 0.60 goals-against average. He'll face a Columbus (2-2-6) club that hasn't dropped a match since a 2-1 loss to Chivas USA on April 5.
The Crew, 2-0-4 in their last six, won for the second time in three matches Wednesday, 2-1 over San Jose.
Reigning league MVP Guillermo Barros Schelotto scored the winning goal 28 seconds into the second half off a pass from Emmanuel Ekpo.
"(Schelotto) surprises everybody every time he steps on the field," said Columbus coach Robert Warzycha, Schmid's former assistant. "So that's good."
Schelotto is tied for the league lead with six goals.
Eddie Gaven scored his second of the season as the Crew ran their unbeaten streak at home to 16 matches (11-0-5). Columbus, though, is 0-2-3 on the road this season.
Defender Danny O'Rourke returns from a one-game red card suspension, but Columbus will be without midfielder Brian Carroll indefinitely after he suffered a dislocated right shoulder in Wednesday's victory.
"That's a huge loss for us," Warzycha told the Crew's official Web site. "We have some players who have to step up and play the role he did."
Columbus captain Frankie Hejduk is questionable after missing Wednesday's match with a left groin strain.
Seattle midfielder Freddie Ljungberg is expected to play after missing the last two matches due to migraine headaches.
Schmid and the Sounders visit Columbus on Oct. 3.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press