Do you have what it takes to be the first coach of Sounders FC?
If so, now’s the time to stay close to the phone. The search for Seattle’s head coach is rapidly heating up.
“The process is accelerating,” says general manager Adrian Hanauer. “The previous few months have been the research and discussion part of our process to figure out what type of coach we want. We’re now entering the phase of going out and actually contacting those individuals, contacting teams to ask for permission to speak to coaches currently under contract, and trying to organize interviews.”
Together with technical director Chris Henderson, Hanauer has put together a group of candidates.
“It’s a pretty strong list and when I look at the list of names. I don’t think we can go wrong with any of them,” Henderson says.
Hanauer knows that many candidates are connected to clubs now entering a critical point in their respective seasons, and he plans to be respectful of those relationships.
“We are very sensitive to coaches currently working for other people,” he says. “We don’t want to put them and their teams in an awkward situation as they’re playing in their competitions.”
Hanauer and Henderson have a clear sense of the qualities they seek in an individual: Character, a strong résumé, a philosophy and goals for both himself and the team.
“We want to hire people who do things the Sounders way, based on character. It’s much like the way the Seahawks have done it,” Henderson says.
Coaching prospects must understand and embrace Major League Soccer’s system of player movement and acquisition. “Given the salary cap, coaching in MLS is slightly unique and requires a certain mentality,” contends Hanauer. “We will hire a coach who is willing to put in the hard work necessary to creatively put a winning side on the pitch.”
The coach will be responsible for not only the first team, but also replenishing talent from within the club by developing younger players.
The only confirmed candidate is Brian Schmetzer, now in his seventh season as the head coach of the Sounders USL team. Seattle has won USL Division 1 championships in two of the past three seasons.
“Not only has Brian proven his character but his coaching resume has been excellent,” states Henderson.
As for the announcement of who gets the Sounders FC first coaching job, Hanauer indicates it could come relatively soon.
“We should have a coach in place, anywhere from the middle of October until the day after MLS Cup [Nov. 23].”
Making Lists, Checking ‘Em Twice
They’re back in the office, but soon Hanauer and Henderson could be on the road. Again.
Wherever and whenever they go, their list of prospective Sounders FC players is both growing and getting culled.
Scouting is taking place simultaneously on several fronts, from MLS, USL, colleges and youth teams domestically, to the search for international talent from countless clubs around the world.
“With finding foreign players, timing is the big issue,” Henderson says. “Timing in terms of when they come out of contract, or when players are free. Good players are popping up at different times throughout the year. Then, on top of that, there’s the signing period, and when that window opens you’ve got to be ready to make the move.”
Henderson and Hanauer recently returned from their second sojourn to South America. Earlier in the spring they traveled to Europe and Africa. Hanauer went to China last fall.
“We’ll be doing lots more traveling,” adds Hanauer, “and that may include returning to places we’ve already visited, or going to new countries.” Whatever it takes.
The scouting is getting more refined. Each week, Henderson and Hanauer update a list of players they project to be available for the MLS expansion draft in November. They not only review video of league matches but reserve games as well.
Together with Schmetzer, they are also developing a list of players capable of making the jump to MLS from the Sounders and other USL teams. The college season is underway, along with the evaluation of top prospects for the SuperDraft in January.
“Once they’re hired, the coaching staff will have their ideas,” says Henderson. “However, I think the key players we’re looking at now, are players they’d be pretty happy with.”
Save Your Place
The time to organize supporters group is now, and the best place to start is Qwest Field’s West Club Lounge next Thursday night, Sept. 11, at 7 o’clock.
Already more than 300 people have reserved their places to hear what it takes to form a bona fide Sounders FC supporters group. They will get pointers from both club and stadium staff, who have already gathered information from MLS and clubs in North America and abroad.
Seating is limited to 500 and although supporters tend to enjoy standing, you will need to reserve yourself a space anyway by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org by Sept. 8.
Incidentally, those attending will receive a complimentary ticket to the USL Sounders match Sept. 13 vs. Atlanta.
Turn On, Tune In
World Cup qualifying resumes this weekend, and by far the most interesting viewing comes from Havana.
America has not sent its national team to Cuba since the revolution of 1959. In fact, the only previous visit was in 1947. The last time the two nations met was during the group stage of the 2005 Gold Cup in Seattle.
While many are braced for the worst, former Sounders and Cuba forward Maykel Galindo expects the Cuban fans to be respectful and far better behaved than the crowd in Guatemala last month.
The Americans are seeking an unprecedented third straight road victory in qualifying. The U.S. hosts Trinidad & Tobago in Chicago next Wednesday (5 p.m., EPSN2).
As for other compelling mixtures of politics and sport, Armenia hosts the cardiac Turks Saturday (9 a.m., Setanta). There are no diplomatic relations between the countries, however Turkish president Abdullah Gul has decided to accept an invitation to attend the game, hopefully signaling a warming of relations.
Turkey has opposed Armenia's occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, but the countries’ cold war dates to World War I and Armenian claims of genocide carried out by Turks.
Midweek, there’s the Croatia-England qualifier (12 noon, Wed.), but you’ll likely need to find a pub and pay a cover.
In MLS, Saturday’s 4:30 match on HDNet features Columbus and New England, the clubs with the league’s top two records and each with an MVP candidate squaring-off. Guillermo Barros Schelotto of the Crew and Shalrie Joseph of the Revs.
After earning a 2-1 road win in a friendly with San Jose earlier this week, Seattle resumes USL play by hosting Miami on Saturday night at 7 at Starfire. Montreal visits Sept. 10…D.C. United booked a spot in next year’s CONCACAF Champions League by beating Charleston, 2-1, in the U.S. Open Cup Final. D.C. and Houston are entered in this season’s Champions League as well. They will be joined by USL members Montreal and Puerto Rico. New England and Chivas USA of MLS were eliminated in the qualifying phase earlier this week…September is Youth Soccer Month across the state and fall leagues get underway for girls and boys Saturday…Sounders FC and Washington Youth Soccer begin offering training sessions for those elite players interested in making the state ODP teams. Pre-registration is required and more details are available at WSYSA.com…WPS, the new women’s pro league set to start in 2009, added a Bay Area franchise this week while delaying the debut of Dallas team until 2010. Eight members of the Sounders women’s team are due to take part in the W-League player combine this weekend in Tampa. Among them is Michelle French, who played three seasons in the defunct WUSA.