By John Boyle
The Sounders season ended a week and a half ago one victory short of a spot in this weekends’s MLS Cup, so instead of preparing for the Houston Dynamo, coach Sigi Schmid and GM Adrian Hanauer were discussing the team’s 2012 season and looking ahead to next year. Obviously the Sounders wish they were still playing, but Schmid and Hanauer feel like the team had a good year, particularly because Seattle won a playoff series for the first time.
“With the playoff win over Salt Lake, we felt like maybe we got the monkey of our back there,” Hanauer said Tuesday.
But that doesn’t mean the team is satisfied. Not by a long shot. We’ll have a column posted soon on this topic, but for now, here is a very incomplete transcript with highlights of a nearly hour-long press conference.
GM ADRIAN HANAUER
(On the offseason)
“I’ve said it every year; the team the following year will be different than the one we had this past year, and that will be the case again come next preseason. Whether the changes are moderate or dramatic, we’ll figure that out along the way. We’ve kept this core around for four years, certainly pieces have changed in and out, but there are a number of players and key salary decisions we’ve made in terms of where we focus our dollars on certain positions or certain players. Each year gets a little more challenging from a cap-management standpoint
“A lot of that flow of allocation money has dried up, and we sit here today in a very cap-constrained situation, so we’ve got our work cut out for us in terms of who we’re able to bring back, then beyond that what we decide to do with the group that was here in 2012 and how we move forward and construct a team that sets us up for next year and beyond and gets us in a better position to have a better chance of winning an MLS Cup than we had even this year.”
(On the Galaxy succeeding with high-price designated players; is that the model Seattle should be using?)
“We want to be Seattle. We want to play the kind of soccer that we want to play. From day one we’ve said we want to play attacking, creative, offensive, goal-scoring soccer and I think we’ve done that. We want results, we want to win trophies, we’ve done that. For sure we want to do it better, but we don’t want to be reactive, we want to have a philosophy, believe in that philosophy, maintain that philosophy, certainly question it at the end of every year, probably more often than that, we want to make sure we’re still going the right direction. But just to be clear, we don’t want to be L.A. We just don’t. L.A is a different market. In order to get anyone’s attention in L.A. and have anybody know that there is a team in L.A., they needed guys like David Beckham and Robbie Keane and (Landon) Donovan.”
(On Fredy Montero and whether he’ll be back)
“We’re willing to look at anything today that is focused on our current philosophy, that makes us better as the type of team that we want to be, that has us bringing players into this market that are going to fit into this market and want to be here.”
Hanauer noted that the Sounders have had chances to sign high profile DPs in the past, but decided it wasn’t a good fit.
“We need to make sure they’re going to be happy in little old Seattle in the Northwest, because Seattle is not the same as L.A. and New York, it’s just not… We are willing to and interested in dreaming big and continuing to look at players who can be game-changers for us.”
(On performance of Seattle’s DPs)
“I love them all and they’ve been very good for us, but I think it’s fair to say that none of our designated players in the playoff series that we have played in the history of our existence have carried the team on their backs. That doesn’t mean that any of our DPs couldn’t do that or won’t do that in the future…But certainly we would like to have players, whether they’re designated players or not, who can carry a team on their back and get the team over the hump.”
(Are you concerned that cap constraints means it’ll be tough to have three DPs)
“I’m concerned about everything right now, and yeah, something’s got to give. Either we need to sell a player and get allocation money, we need to renegotiate contracts, we need to make some trades, we need to have one less DP, something has to give. But again, something has to give every year. It’s not as though this is the first time we’ve ever dealt with this, so we’ll figure it out.”
(On if ownership is willing to spend more on DPs than in the past)
“We still want to run a rational business and a business that’s sustainable, but we do think there’s an opportunity to maybe push the envelope a little bit, and that doesn’t mean we will, it only means that we’ll make changes that we think will make our team better clearly. We don’t want to spend more money just for the heck of it.”
And one other note, Hanauer said the team has an option for 2013 on forward Eddie Johnson, which they obviously plan on using. And that option does not require Johnson to receive a significant enough pay bump that he would become a DP.
(On the season)
“We set our goals at a very high level, so we’re always a little bit dissatisfied when we don’t achieve those very lofty goals, but those goals are also within our reach.
“Overall I’ve been very pleased with what we’ve done over the four years. Our record is the second best over that time, we have the second-best goal production over that time, behind L.A. in both. Obviously there’s still another level for us to get to, but I think we’re in view of the summit.”
“You have to look at everything. You look at everything and you look at what options are out there. Sometimes things fall in your lap, and all of a sudden, a player becomes available and you say, ‘Well, that could make us stronger there.’ … Any time you can find improvement you do it. The other thing we want to do is improve as a team in terms of our approach and our play and our concept. The question is, can we as a team—and this is something I’ve mentioned to the players in our meetings—can we play like we did in our last game of the season against L.A. in every game? Can we bring that desire, that heart, that commitment and that resolve into every game that we play? It’s hard to do over 34 games, but it’s certainly a goal.”
(Is he happy with the play of his team’s three DPs?)
Schmid pointed out that that Mauro Rosales once again had 13 assists, but that it was disappointing to again have him unavailable for much of the preseason because of injuries. He also said that Tiffert was OK, but admitted expectations may have been too high for a midseason acquisition, and noted that Montero had another productive season, scoring 17 goals in all competitions.
“Overall if you compare that to some of the production of some of the DPs around the league, the production is pretty good. There are very few that exceed that. A couple of them are on one team, unfortunately for us.”
(Do you want Montero back?)
“Do I want Fredy back? I want all my players back. Adrian probably accuses me of being too attached to my players. But everything at the end of the day depends on what the options are and what you’ve got to do for your team … (Arsene Wenger said), ‘Every decision has to be for the best of the team, then the decisions aren’t hard, they’re easy.’ So with regards to Fredy, yeah, I want him back, but if there’s a situation that presents itself, we have to look at it. He’s had good success, he’s been a very consistent player for us in terms of production. We have to see what his dreams and ambitions are and what our dreams and ambitions are, and make sure they all coincide.”
(On the success LA has had with its high-priced DPs)
“Robbie Keane’s been captain of Ireland, Beckham has been captain of England, Donovan has been captain of the U.S., between those three guys alone when you add it up, you get to almost 400 caps. That’s a huge amount of experience, that’s a huge amount of leadership. When they’re all pulling the rope in the same direction, they get up a pretty good head of steam, and it’s easy for the other guys to follow. We don’t have that same level of experience and leadership in our DPs as they have.
“It’s rare when you can find that and accumulate that all on one club… Sometimes you’re never quite sure what that final catalyst is going to be. If you knew as a coach what that was, then you would just bottle it, market it, sell it… But it’s not like that. Sometimes it’s, this formula works, and now you’ve got to tweak it here. They got the right tweak in at the right time and it’s worked for them. We’ve got to find that tweak.”
Schmid went on to point out that big-money signings don’t guarantee success, noting that New York, like the Galaxy, has three high-price stars with big-time experience, yet the Red Bulls were bounced early in the playoffs.
“There are so many different roads that lead to Rome, and there so many different ways to achieve success. It’s working right now in LA, it’s not working right now in New York. Houston does it a different way as well. We’ve stayed true to our philosophy of playing attacking soccer, playing possession soccer, being an entertaining team and being a team that’s going to be in the hunt for trophies every year, and that’s what we’ve continued to do. Now what we want to do is get that ultimate prize.”