Former Seattle Sounders head coach and midfielder Jimmy Gabriel, who coached the team in Pele’s final game at Soccer Bowl 77, has passed away.
He was 80.
A Seattle soccer icon and a pillar of the Puget Sound soccer scene since arriving as a player with original Sounders of the North American Soccer League in 1974, Gabriel leaves a tangible legacy throughout the community.
“Today’s news is a heavy blow for anyone that loves soccer in our community,” Sounders onwer Adrian Hanauer said in a statement. “Jimmy Gabriel was beloved in this region, and our sport would not be where it is here today without his influence. Jimmy was integral to those early NASL Sounders teams, which inspired me in my youth and played a major role in my own journey with this club. Jimmy embodied all that is great about our game: he was passionate in everything he did surrounding the sport, but was always humble and a joy to be around. We will miss him dearly, but his legacy lives on here in this community.”
In addition to patrolling Seattle’s backline and midfield from the club’s founding year through 1979, Gabriel served as a player-coach during this period, beginning a coaching tradition that would last decades.
Gabriel served as head coach of the NASL Sounders – where he mentored current Sounders FC head coach Brian Schmetzer and countless others – going on to accept coaching positions with the San Jose Earthquakes, English sides Bournemouth and Everton, in addition to the USL Sounders and the University of Washington men’s soccer program. He directed the NASL Sounders to their first appearance in the Soccer Bowl in 1977, a memorable contest against the New York Cosmos in Pelé’s final competitive match (a 2-1 loss for Seattle).
“I am saddened to learn of Jimmy’s passing. Today we lost an incredible mentor and friend,” Schmetzer said in a statement. “Jimmy’s influence on my overall view of life through the game is vast, and there’s no doubt that without his counsel I would not be the same person and coach. I am better in life having known Jimmy, and he will be missed by so many people he touched. I am thinking of his family today and wish them peace in knowing that Jimmy’s impact will never be forgotten.”
A fierce defensive midfielder that began his playing career in his native Scotland with Dundee in 1958, Gabriel had long runs a with Everton and Southampton,” Sounders general manager and president of soccer Garth Lagerwey said. “On Merseyside, Gabriel played in 303 matches for Everton between 1960 and 1967, scoring 37 goals, and winning the English First Division title in 1963 and the FA Cup in 1966. On England’s south coast with Southampton, the Scottish international appeared in more than 200 matches from 1967 through 1972.
He scored the first Seattle goal in the newly-constructed Kingdome in 1976 against the Cosmos.
“Jimmy Gabriel is immensely respected in our soccer community, and learning of his passing today is deeply saddening. I know Jimmy was a man of high character and integrity, and from everyone I’ve encountered in Seattle that worked with him over the years, it’s clear that his impact will be felt for generations. On behalf of our organization, I’d like to extend our deepest condolences to his family.”