And Away We Go

And Away We Go

The USL era of the Sounders will truly come to a close when the Sounders travel to Rosario later this month.
What began with the first league match back in Quebec some 14 years ago will be whistled to a stop in the Argentine port city of Rosario late this month.

On Oct. 25, the USL era of the Seattle Sounders will truly come to a close. The players will pull off their shirts and exchange them for one last time following the fourth and final fixture in a series of friendlies in both Rosario and Buenos Aires.

For Adrian Hanauer, majority owner of the USL franchise, sending the team to South America is one way to express his gratitude. Gratitude for all the memories, the championships and, yes, putting up with all the distractions of this past season.

But Hanauer also wears another hat, that of part owner and general manager of Sounders FC, and as such he hopes this trip south, way down south, serves a multitude of purposes.

Over two weeks, the Sounders will play four matches and watch a couple of others, including the superclasico, Boca Juniors v River Plate, at El Monumental, the national stadium.

“First, this trip is a way to say thanks to a lot of players who’ve been with the Sounders for a lot of years in the USL,” says Hanauer. “They’ve also dealt with some confusion and the distraction of MLS coming into town while their season is going on.”

Sentimentality aside, Hanauer also sees this expedition as R&D for Sounders FC.

Matches with Estudiantes, Platense, Rosario Central and C.A. Griffa are essentially final auditions. It’s part business, part pleasure. All games will occur in late morning or afternoon, allowing time to explore and sample the Argentina lifestyle after hours.

Brian Schmetzer will take a full squad which includes two players already signed to MLS contracts, Sebastien Le Toux and Sanna Nyassi. Schmetzer, himself a candidate for the head coaching position, will evaluate both his own players, the opposition’s and some local free agents who will train with the Sounders.

Also being examined are hotels, training facilities and potential competition for an upcoming Sounders FC preseason tour.

For Sounders present and future, Argentina comes to mean different things. It’s both the end of one path and the start of another.

On the Road Again

Earlier this week in London, a thousand key business figures from the soccer world convened for a two-day summit. Sounders FC majority owner Joe Roth was among the participants at the Leaders in Football conference. And Joe isn’t the only one logging frequent flyer miles.

On Thursday night, several members of the front office were in Utah for the grand opening of the new home of Real Salt Lake. It was the sixth trip by various staff to MLS matches this season, and there will be more. So far, they’ve visited Chicago, L.A., New England and Toronto (twice).

“We’re looking to see what other teams do, their best practices, game presentation, Game First and generally how they operate,” says Gary Wright, senior vice president of business operations. “We take the best of what we see, and then we’ll come up with our own plan, what will be the best for us and our fans.”

Economic Crunch

Everyone is feeling the pinch these days, no matter what country or club.

Next Monday in Geneva, UEFA will begin discussions on how to address the growing number of super powers who are heavily leveraged financially.
At the Leaders in Football conference,UEFA general secretary David Taylor said the European governing body would look deeper into the books of such giants as Manchester United, Chelsea and Liverpool. Those who can’t live reasonably within their means, says Taylor, could ultimately face banishment from the Champions League.
“It won't happen this year, it won't happen next year but, yes, that could happen in years to come,” Taylor told London’s Guardian. “Some of us believe it shouldn't be an absolutely free market and we are in favor of controlled regulation. An increasing number of people in football believe we have to do more.”

Bobby McMahon, analyst for Fox Soccer Report, says it’s right that UEFA call attention to the free spending before it’s too late.

“Otherwise, we’re going to end up with an NFL-type system in Europe, where there might be 10-15 top teams in the league, with no relegation,” McMahon tells SoundersFC.com. “Particularly in England, you see a sport absolutely rolling in money but only at the top. That money has not found its way through the system, into the lower level teams, which are incredibly important to their community.

“Even at the top level, teams are brining in lots of money but are unable to make that money stick,” adds McMahon. “As Sir Alan Sugar said, money goes in one end and goes out the other. It leeches out of soccer into other things, and doesn’t benefit the game.”

Turn On, Tune In

Friday, Oct. 10
8:30 p.m., FSN, In Their Own Words
Why Watch: Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson shares his experience of growing up with the game…and some questionable haircuts. For replay airtimes see FSNinsider.com

Saturday, Oct. 11
8:30 a.m. (PT), FSC, England-Kazakhstan
Why Watch: At Wembley, England expected to extend its perfect start to qualifying under Capello

11:30 a.m. (PT), FSC, Estonia-Spain
Why Watch: Setting the stage for the biggest upset qualifying upset in recent history, the Estonians fell 7-0 in their last outing, against Bosnia-Herzegovina. Now comes the European champions

11:45 a.m. (PT), Gol, Germany-Russia
Why Watch: Marquee matchup in the group, with Russia looking for its first win on German soil since 1956

4 p.m. (PT), ESPN Classic, USA-Cuba
Why Watch: By beating the Cubans in D.C. the Yanks can clinch a place in the final qualifying round with two games to go

7 p.m. (PT), HDNet, San Jose- Chivas USA
Why Watch: Revived attacks have made these two of the strongest sides during the season’s second half, and the Goats are closing in on playoff berth

Sunday, Oct. 12
4 p.m. (PT), FSC, Vancouver-Puerto Rico
Why Watch: Playing at home, the Whitecaps seek their second USL First Division championship in three years and could keep the crown in the Northwest for the fourth straight season by beating the top-seeded Islanders

Wednesday, Oct. 15
5 p.m. (PT), ESPN, Trinidad & Tobago-USA
Why Watch: It’s a nostalgic trip back to where the era of qualifying for World Cup and America becoming a regional power all began (different pitch but still Port of Spain)

Thursday, Oct. 16
4:30 p.m. (PT), ESPN2, D.C. United-New England
Why Watch: Since claiming the U.S. Open Cup, United is winless in eight going into this weekend while the Revs have somehow clinched despite winning once in last seven

Throw-Ins

Next week is the deadline for cities bidding for MLS expansion franchises for 2011. Portland’s in the mix along with Vancouver, whose mayor made a trip to the league offices in New York as the paperwork was submitted. A decision on the two selected cities is not expected before March. Six other communities from the U.S. and Canada are in the hunt…Seven months ago, virtually no one predicted that the class of MLS would come out of Ohio, but Columbus can claim the Supporters’ Shield with a victory at Chicago. Meanwhile, the Galaxy could be eliminated from post season contention…Starved for an intracity derby? Seattle Pacific and Seattle U. renew the rivalry which dates back 40 years when they meet Tuesday night, Oct. 14, at Interbay. On Oct. 16, the top two Div. II women’s teams in the region, SPU and Western Washington, tangle on the Interbay turf...Unbeaten in seven, the Washington men visit Oregon State Friday. Also on the road this weekend are the 16th-ranked UW women. They face a tall order, visiting defending national champion and No. 5 USC on Friday and No. 3 UCLA on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Huskies host Stanford Oct. 17 at 7. 
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