First came the lull, and now the clang of an alarm clock.
The countdown toward the first season for Seattle Sounders FC has begun with a rush. First the vote, then the result and another rush of announcements is expected in ensuing weeks.
And the chances of seeing the club’s general manager or technical director at those events are probably less than 50-50.
Adrian Hanauer and Chris Henderson land in Buenos Aires Friday, beginning a busy 10-day excursion through Argentina and Uruguay. Later this month they head to Nigeria and Ghana.
When Hanauer said Sounders FC would “scour the globe to find the next Ronaldinho or Cristiano Ronaldo,” he wasn’t kidding around. Oh, Juan Riquelme, are you free for lunch?
Hanauer and Henderson will watch several first and second division matches and training sessions. Among the clubs they are slated to see are the Clausura’s 1-2 tandem of River Plate and Estudiantes. They will also meet with club officials and explore facilities, looking for potential preseason camp locations and researching the possibility of postseason tours.
A year ago, while a Kansas City assistant coach, Henderson first made the acquaintance of an agent while in Argentina for preseason training with the Wizards. That agent has helped to arrange this trip’s itinerary.
Don’t expect them to come home with anyone new. Hanauer says the bulk of new players for the 2009 Major League Soccer season will be signed next fall and winter. Coaching candidates are to be interviewed beginning late this summer.
Reminded on Monday that rumors of Thierry Henry’s interest in coming to Seattle continue to circulate the internet, Seattle majority owner Joe Roth responded by saying, “If there was a player of that caliber available somewhere in the world, we’d love to have them.”
Also at the press conference, Hanauer said that Seattle’s goal is to earn a slot in the CONCACAF Champions League within the first 3-4 years. Typically, the two American entries are determined by their MLS finish.
Houston and D.C. United, winners of the 2007 MLS Cup and Supporters’ Shield (best record), respectively, were the representatives in this spring’s final Champions Cup. The Champions League takes the place of the cup and begins this summer.
USL Sounders Take Shape
Meanwhile, Hanauer and coach Brian Schmetzer are also finalizing their roster for the final season of USL Division 1 play.
Franco Yamashiro, from Peru’s Club Sportivo Cienciano, joined training this week. “We’re close to making our final cuts, but we’re leaving room for a couple more young, talented players may have chance to play MLS,” says Hanauer.
Kevin Forrest, formerly a star forward at Washington and supplemental draftee of the Colorado Rapids, was in camp last week, primarily to gain fitness while working his way back from an injury. Hanauer is not expecting MLS clubs to do many deals with the Sounders, such as the loan of Brian Ching a few years back.
“We have good relationships with all the clubs, but they’re certainly holding their cards a little closer to their vests this year as opposed to years past,” notes Hanauer. “Although we don’t play for another year, if they supply us with good players, it may come back to haunt them.”
Name That Market
As for future MLS expansion teams taking NASL era nicknames, Roth sees it as a market-by-market issue. Philadelphia, which was home to no less than three teams (Spartans, Atoms and Fury), will assuredly look for something new.
“Philadelphia will be different. But if Vancouver come in, I suspect they would be the Whitecaps and Portland would want the Timbers,” said Roth. “They have a similar history (to Seattle.).”
The Seattle, Portland and Vancouver USL teams all adopted the nicknames of their Seventies era NASL predecessors.
Other than Seattle, the only MLS franchise to take the name of a past NASL team is the San Jose Earthquakes.
What to Watch
Going into the final five rounds of the Premiership, most of the world’s attention is focused on the tight race for first. But elsewhere in England dozens of clubs from lesser-known communities are involved in struggles for promotion or to avoid relegation in the top tiers.
In the latter case, we can witness a couple local guys involved in such a predicament Saturday morning on Fox Soccer Channel. Reading and ex-SPU and Sounders keeper Marcus Hahnemann will host Fulham and its handful of Americans, including Lacey native Kasey Keller. That kicks-off at 7 a.m. Pacific.
The game of the week comes Sunday (8 a.m., FSC), with Arsenal visiting Manchester United, holder of a slim three-point lead on hard-charging Chelsea.
Other highlights from the European TV schedule are Werder Bremen-Schalke (GolTV, Sunday, 8:30), fixture involving two of the Bundesliga’s compacted top four; Juventus-Milan (FSC, Sat., 11:30) and Inter-Fiorentina (FSC, Sun., 11:30), both from Serie A. For midweek, there’s a rescheduled Old Firm match Apr. 16 (Setanta, 11:45 a.m.). Rangers have twice won at home and this will be the first of two ventures across Glasgow to Celtic Park in nine days.
From MLS, the expansion Quakes play Chicago (FSC, Sat., 1:30) in Oakland’s big McAfee Coliseum and you can get a look at Kansas City’s intimate temporary home when they host Houston (HDnet, Sat., 5 p.m.). Coincidentally, both venues are primarily baseball parks.
Good upper level seats ($20-30) are still available for next Wednesday’s Mexico-China game at Qwest Field. Sales have surpassed 40,000 to date. Call Ticketmaster (206.628.0888) or visit Ticketmaster.com. The Qwest Field box office is open 10-5 weekdays and 10-2 Saturday. The Futbol Fiesta begins gameday at 4 p.m. in the North Parking Lot. Kickoff is 8 p.m…The U.S. men moved up seven places in the latest FIFA world rankings. Team USA, now 21st, will host No. 1 Argentina June 8 in the Meadowlands, and travels to No. 11 England and No. 4 Spain May 28 and June 4, respectively…Incidentally, Mexico is 16th and China 82nd. The Tricolores will be playing their first game since the firing of Hugo Sanchez, with interim coach Jesus “Chucho” Ramierez in charge…Hope Solo and the U.S. women are going back to China. They clinched their place in Beijing by beating Costa Rica 3-0 in he CONCACAF qualifying tournament semifinals. The U.S. now faces Canada, a 1-0 victor over host Mexico, in Saturday night’s rather meaningless final…Washington state championships for girls ages 15-19 begin this weekend, with semifinals and finals set for May 3-4…The UEFA Cup semifinal pairings are now set. Bayern Munich meets Russia’s Zenit St. Petersburg and Rangers face Fiorentina. It’s pretty much an Anglo’s dream final four in the Champions League. Barcelona playss Man United and Chelsea has Liverpool in the first legs Apr. 22-23.