MLS Head Coaches Kick off Desert Showcase with Talk
Together, they have overseen the domination of Major League Soccer's Western Conference in recent years.
Brian Schmetzer and Giovanni Savarese have accounted for the last six MLS Cup appearances out of the conference, while former U.S. national team players Pablo Mastroeni and Robin Fraser have found success at the head coaching level.
The four are in Southern Arizona prepping their teams for the 2022 season, and they will kick off the Desert Showcase presented by Visit Tucson with a half-hour moderated question-and-answer session Tuesday night at the iconic Hotel Congress in downtown Tucson.
The evening is being presented by Rio Nuevo.
Schmezter and Savarese will meet on the field Wednesday evening as the Schmetzer's Seattle Sounders take on Savarese's Portland Timbers (Kino North Stadium, 7 p.m.,).
Under Schmetzer, the Sounders have won the 2016 and '19 titles, and were MLS runner-up in 2017 and '20. A forward/midfielder in his playing days, Schmetzer has navigated the various levels of the U.S. soccer pyramid as a coach. He guided the Sounders to USL titles in 2005 and '07 before the team joined MLS.
Savarese led the New York Cosmos to three NASL teams before taking over in Portland in 2017. The Venezuala-born Saverese was a forward as a player. He went to LIU-Brooklyn and was drafted in the inaugural MLS SuperDraft in 1996 by the New York Red Bulls (then the New York/New Jersey Metro Stars). He scored the franchise's first goal and went on to a professional playing career that saw him elected to the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007.
As the Timbers' head coach, Savarese led the club to the MLS Cup finals in 2018 and '21. They lost this year's finals on penalty kicks to NYCFC.
The Sounders and Colorado Rapids qualified for the CONCACAF Champions League, while the Sounders will play in the Leagues Cup, adding to the urgency of getting the teams ready for the season.
Under Robin Fraser, the Rapids posted the best record in the Western Conference in 2021. He took over in the middle of 2019, nearly taking the team to the postseason. The following year, the Rapids improved to fifth in the conference before ascending to the top spot in the 2021 regular-season.
Fraser was MLS Cup runner-up as an assistant head coach in 2009 with Real Salt Lake and 2017 with Toronto FC.
Fraser's Rapids will take on Sporting KC at Kino North Stadium on Saturday, Jan. 29 (BUY TICKETS) and the Houston Dynamo on Saturday, Feb. 4 (BUY TICKETS).
Fraser had 27 caps with the U.S. men's national team as a player from 1988-2001, and was a two-time MLS Defender of the Year. Fraser grew up in Miami, and played his collegiate soccer at Florida International University.
Like FC Tucson's own Jon Pearlman, Mastroeni earned the head coaching position for 2022 after his successes last year as the interim coach with RSL.
Mastroeni led RSL to the Western Conference playoffs with a late-season push that included qualifying on the final day. Once in the postseason, Mastroeni's club upset Seattle and Sporting KC before falling to Portland.
Mastroeni is well-known to Tucson soccer fans. The Argentina-born defensive midfielder played for the Tucson Amigos from 1995-97 in the former USISL (now USL) while going to school at North Carolina State. He went on to earn 65 caps for the U.S. men's national team.
Tuesday's event is open to the public. Due to MLS protocols, access to the coaches will be limited to the Q&A session.
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