A few highlights from my conversation with Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer are in separate posts below. I’ll use the rest of this one for some other only semi-related topics that came up.
On his thoughts on the 2014 roster: Obviously yet to be determined, but I think we’re encouraged. The pieces that we were really focused on were that core mentality, chemistry, cohesiveness, work rate, which I think we’ve seen signs is headed the in the right direction. The overall beauty of the soccer, I think is hopefully yet to come. But to grind out a win like that against a really good team with a lot of new faces – against a team that had a lot of the same faces and had just won a championship – I think is a step in the right direction. A lot yet to be written, but so far encouraged. The other thing that we were focused on in the offseason was getting a little younger, a little more athletic, and I think we accomplished that as well – including our two homegrown players that are coming along nicely. But none of it means anything until the end of the season.
On if the disappointment of 2013 spurred some of the changes for this season: It was probably a catalyst in some way. I think the harder the kick in the teeth, the more likely you are to react to that. And that was a pretty big kick in the teeth last year. I don’t want to give the impression that the conversations about the kinds of things that we’re going to do don’t start until a kick in the teeth. We had a very good idea of what our intentions were heading in to this year, regardless. And quite frankly, even if we would have won a championship, I think we still would have done a lot of the things that we intended. So maybe it was the exclamation point that sort of made it clear which direction we want to go.
On if even the consideration of a coaching change last season helped ownership determine what markers might lead to one: As relates to ‘markers,’ that also is not something I’m a big believer in, that some defined win-loss record, or playoff record, or goals scored record should be the determinant of whether we keep or fire a coach. To me it’s much more about the body of work, the locker room, the entertainment that we provide our fans. Ultimately results are a piece of that, but I just don’t want to mix up short-term with the overall body of work.
On the improvement of rosters across the league: I’m as confident as ever league-wide. The West has been super-competitive for a lot of years and remained competitive. The East got a heck of a lot more competitive this year between Toronto, Philadelphia, Columbus will be a little bit better, D.C. brought in a lot of quality players. I know attendance was way up for the opening weekend – I’m not sure what anomalies may or may not be in there. Ratings were good. Signing new players. A really positive story: the expansion, stadiums still being built and opening. The ESPN poll on kids (having more interesting in MLS) than in baseball. … Young people are more interested in MLS than in Major League Baseball: That bodes well for the future. So I’m excited. And again, the overall competition in our league, I’m sure some would argue that it’s sometimes better to have a Real Madrid and Barcelona – Athletico Mardid is up there now as well – but a few super teams. I like our league and the completive nature. Every week is a battle.
On if there has been a decision regarding the Sounders and USL-Pro in 2015: Yet to be settled, but highly likely that we will operate our own USL-Pro team out of Starfire.