Attending to many of these matters, and doing so in meticulous fashion, is Chris Henderson. Recently, we spent a Monday with Henderson, detailing a day in the life of the Sounders FC technical director.
8 a.m. Chris arrives at the Sounders FC team headquarters at the Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila. Just minutes from SeaTac, Starfire will be the daily training site. Henderson notes, “For a player, being close to the airport and team travel, it's a good location.” Two new fields, one grass and another FieldTurf, are being completed on the north of the complex. More office space is being constructed for coaching and technical staff, and the planned addition includes a new Sounders FC locker room, team meeting areas and a locker-room lounge.
8:15 a.m. Chris first spends an hour updating the starting lineup whiteboard in his office. On it are listed all MLS team starters from the previous week. “It’s a matter of two to three guys I can switch,” explains Chris. “The important factor is I see the trends of who’s starting consistently.”
9:15 a.m. He logs in to Match Analysis programs “Tango Online” and “Mambo Studio” to assess lineups and video of the past week’s MLS matches. Tango is a complete, touch-by-touch indexed video database of the entire league, and it’s used by many MLS clubs to watch every shot, every foul, every goal, or even every touch by a specific player. Mambo Studio automatically downloads each game from a centralized computer using an external hard drive, allowing Chris or a coach to take video and slice and dice.
Chris creates his search preferences, allowing him to instantly extract matching events and dynamically assemble a personalized movie that streams directly to his desktop. It pump life into every imaginable stat link.
Chris refers to the technology as a library of every game, a tool to not only evaluate potential player signings, but also as a coaching devise for players to see their touches from a previous game. “Adrian (Hanauer) is big on technology. We are all for being able to use it as an extra tool. For sure, it’s how you perform on the field. But I think that if the players feel like they have the resources, they will want to come play in Seattle, because ‘Hey they’re doing everything right there.’”
10:15 a.m. On to foreign talent evaluation. Every game televised is downloaded to a database. Tyler Richardson, Sounders FC digital media intern, then burns DVD copies of each game and organizes in a detailed library. According to which player is of interest, Chris pulls from that team’s games to assess talent level.
Prior to viewing the DVD, Chris uses Scout7 systems to assist in monitoring player prospects outside of the United States, tracking the progress of both established and emerging talent across the world through the largest player database in world soccer, in addition to managing their own report information and personal notes on specific targets centrally and securely online.
“Before I watch the DVD, I’ll look him up on Scout7 to find out all the information. A lot of the time there will be a player report that a scout has done. I look it up and find out how he played. Then I’ll watch it. That takes time when you are watching the foreign DVDs.
“Sometimes you go through in 2 minutes and can tell the guy’s not going to be good enough. And then other times you have to watch him all the way through. You watch him a second time. You pass him on to someone else on the staff like (Brian) Schmetzer, Darren (Sawatzky) or Tommy (Dutra). Pass it through and say ‘Hey, look at this guy and tell me what you think’ to get other opinions.”
1:15 p.m. It’s time for lunch, a working lunch. Chris picks up a salad from the neighboring Mad Pizza and returns to his desk, simultaneously eating and navigating through emails. It’s a tall and lengthy order. There are upwards of 100 daily emails with topics ranging from scout and agent inquiries to equipment room issues.
“There’s always something going on at the moment, whether it’s the locker room needing to be weighed in on, or something in the details with the (new) field. I have to call Randy (Noteboon), the trainer, and Rich (Hawks), the equipment manager.
“Call adidas; those guys need time. They need to plan the training room, order the equipment, buy goals, all of the little details on the soccer side. Stuff will come through on medical, as Dr. (Mike) Morris is putting together the team of doctors, so he’ll call with a question.”
3:00 p.m. Chris meets with Starfire President and CEO Chris Slatt. They do a quick walk-through of the remodel and field implementation and discuss the most recent progress.
3:45 p.m. More important phone calls to make, this time in the form of interviews. One of which is to a potential coaching candidate, while another involves the opening for the team administrator position. Once filled, the team administrator will help balance the workload.
“It’ll take a lot off my plate. He’ll be able to put together the player handbook that will go with the media and public relations manual. It’ll have every other player’s contact info. All the details, all the player rules. Rules for training room, lounge. Anything they need, they can open it up and say ‘OK, this is the procedure.’ All the team specific fines. I think each club needs to do their own because every set-up is different. Some clubs train in their stadium, some clubs are like us. It’s professional. Go in your locker and it’s in there.”
4:45 p.m. The latter hours of the work day are focused on the official MLS Player Handbook, covering the rules, guidelines, and collective bargaining agreement. It includes all the lineups and salaries of each team, and MLS policy for the reserve team and youth development.
“I spend quite a bit of time looking at our MLS bible. It pretty much goes over all the procedures that we need to do. I found that really going through it is a lot different than reading about it. I need to know the background and be able to provide our team administrator a thorough understanding.”
Professionalism is at the core of Sounders FC. Chris’ philosophy: “Show professionalism, be positive, and take care of the players’ best interests, and in turn they’re going to go out on the field and give it their best.”
5:45 p.m. Chris leaves the office, only to head to the University of Washington for the men’s soccer match against his alma mater, UCLA. He’s looking forward to seeing old friends and colleagues, and perhaps a Bruin victory. Then again, if someone on the Bruins or Huskies catches his eye, there may be more video to review in the morning.