Conference Call Transcription
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RENTON, WASH. – The Seattle Sounders FC is now stocked with 14 players following the selection of 10 individuals during today’s Major League Soccer Expansion Draft.
Among the players chosen by general manager Adrian Hanauer and technical director Chris Henderson was a Northwest native and U.S. National Team member, forward Nate Jaqua (pronounced JAKE-wuh) of the Houston Dynamo.
In addition, three other draft selections have international experience at the senior level. Kahno Smith (pronounced KAHN-no), a midfielder from New England, has over 20 caps for Bermuda, including three World Cup qualifiers earlier this year. Jarrod Smith, a forward from Toronto FC, has represented New Zealand. Peter Vagenas (pronounced Vye-YAY-nuss), a midfielder from the L.A. Galaxy, earned the U.S. caps in 2000.
Also drafted were Brad Evans (midfielder, Columbus), Stephen King (midfielder, Chicago), Jeff Parke (defender, New York), James Riley (defender, San Jose), Nathan Sturgis (midfielder, Salt Lake) and Tyson Wahl (defender, Kansas City). Evans, Sturgis, Vagenas and Wahl have played for U.S. youth international teams, with Sturgis being named to the 2008 Olympic team.
“We feel like we got a great mix of players,” said Adrian Hanauer, Sounders FC general manager. “We got an experienced veteran who has been there in the trenches and played lots of MLS games in Peter Vagenas. We got mid-tier experienced guys in Parke, Jaqua and Khano Smith. We’re very excited about the young players we were able to select.”
“We weighted the draft a little more defensively, rather than the attack,” said Hanauer. “We feel very good about our expansion draft players as they complement our existing four players. Together, they comprise a very solid core.”
Sounders FC has already signed four players for its inaugural season: Kasey Keller, goalkeeper; Sebastien Le Toux, forward; Freddie Ljungberg, midfielder; and Sanna Nyassi, midfielder.
Six of the new Sounders FC players started at least half of their teams’ league games in 2008; Jaqua, who joined Houston in midseason, started 11 times.
Seattle’s selections average 24.9 years of age, and 3.8 seasons of MLS experience. There were five midfielders, three defenders and two forwards selected.
Seattle, which will become the 15th MLS team in the 2009 season, could claim only one player from each existing team; four teams did not lose a player.
CONFERENCE CALL TRANSCRIPTION
Adrian Hanauer Opening Statement:
“We did a lot of research as we headed into this process, and had a very specific philosophy and process in mind to navigate through the expansion draft. We took a lot of time watching video, doing statistical analysis, both analytical and direct experience. We checked a lot of references. Had conversations with players. And we are extremely pleased with the outcome of our expansion draft. We set out to have a very balanced expansion draft, and we feel like we accomplished that. We wanted a combination of experienced veterans, guys who have been there in the trenches. We wanted a blend of guys who can play two, three, four years. Then some young guys, and obviously the way the expansion process works, some of the younger players are less exposed. We were certainly interested in choosing the best of the best young players that were available that we thought either have shown promise in the league, or we feel have enormous upside. We felt we accomplished that as well. We certainly wanted players that have either been winners from the past, or come from winning organizations. So that was certainly in our lines as well as we went through this. And some of the philosophical pieces that we’ve talked about. We want to be creative. We want speed. We want versatility in players. And so, we feel extremely pleased with the draft. You also will probably notice is that if we have to characterize it, is that we leaned a little more defensively in the draft. We have with Sebastien Le Toux, Freddi Ljungberg and Sanna Nyassi, obviously have some attacking players already in the mix. We felt this group would blend well with the players already under contract, and those players we have in our crosshairs for the future, and guys who we’re pulling the wagons on as we speak. I’m happy to take questions. I’ll probably defer the technical questions about specific players to Chris Henderson, who is sitting beside me.”
CONFERENCE CALL Q&A
(On process since seeing the list of players on Monday…) “A lot of the process happened well before the list came out. We were 80-90 percent sure of which players were going to be protected. That made it a little bit easier and begin the research process. When we got the list, we were able to fine tune it, and drill down a little bit further on some of the statistical analysis that we looked at. Incidentally, we are in Oakland and at the office of Match Analysis, who are able to access video and some of the statistical analysis that we don’t have up in Seattle. This process also involved calls to references and calls to players themselves to make sure that the group we were going to select were going to be happy, enthusiastic, and ready to come and help Seattle win.”
(On Nate Jaqua expressing interest in coming to Seattle…) “Without getting in to too much detail, Nate definitely, from the Northwest, liked the idea of coming to the Northwest. Nothing was certain until it was certain in terms of the expansion draft. But we did have some conversation with both Houston and Nate early on when he was returning from Austria to Houston. It wasn’t a huge surprise to us that he was left after. And he’s a player that we’re absolutely thrilled to have on board.”
(On specific ingredients to selecting these ten players…) “No specific ingredient. I’d probably go back to the word ‘balance’. We wanted some possession guys. We wanted some guys who can get stuff in on tackles. We wanted some guys who can win balls in the midfield. We wanted some speed. We wanted some attack. Nate’s a big body in the box. Some versatility. So there’s really no one thing. The common ingredient would having spent some time on the phone with these players, they’re all excited about coming to a great situation in Seattle and helping us win.”
(On choosing Jeff Parke…) “I had the opportunity to play with Jeff, and against him as well. He’s a great player. He’s got experience. He’s very athletic. I think with regard to missing some of the games early, if we can get through that period, he’s got a tremendous upside. He’s been in some very big games. I think he’s a guy that will really contribute. He’s played in a 4 in the back. He’s played in a 3. He is out-of-contract. It’s something we hope we can work out. We’re excited to have Jeff.”
(On if there were players Sounders FC did not pick due to character or other issues…) “The answer is yes. We looked at lots of different ingredients. And I guess I would be remiss in also listing among the ingredients and the reasons for picking players, is their current salary situations. Currently that plays a role in the collection of certain players as well. Specifically on character, yeah, it’s among a number of aspects that we look at when assessing a player, whether through the expansion draft or any other means.”
(On expectations of all ten players being on roster for opening game…) “They’re going to come in, and we expect a number of those being there. Whether all ten of them will be there or not, I guess that’s certainly a question. We will have more players vying for a roster spot than roster spots available. So I hope they’re all there, but at the same time, we are going to try to bring in as much quality to fight for roster spots as possible.”
(On selecting Jarrod Smith from Toronto FC…) “We did a lot of research, and watched some video and the stats that we had, we liked what we had seen from Jarrod. He’s currently in the New Zealand National Team pool, so that’s something that if he makes the Confederation’s Cup next year, we’ll deal with that. I think he’s a player that’s hungry to prove himself. I think he’s a competitor. He’s a versatile player. He’s a strong target type forward, but he can also play another position. We like that. We see a tremendous upside with Jarrod.”
(On what’s next on the radar for Sounders FC…) “There’s a waiver draft that comes up later today. It’s conceivable that we would participate in the waiver draft, but highly unlikely. There are ongoing potential trade discussions. Those always are sitting there in the background. I think probably the next major step will be to sit down with the USL players from the previous Sounders to assess where they’re at, and potentially offer some contracts. And there are a number of international players that we are continuing to research and pursue. We have a college draft in the not too distant future, in January, so we’re preparing for that, and just really getting prepared to start having players report to camp in January.”
(On number of players that will be at camp and contract negotiation with ten players drafted…) “Players at camp when camp opens, if I have to use round numbers, 30 to 35, probably going up and down over periods of time as we bring in players for trial. As far as contracts go, all of these players are under contract or optioned to the league, other than Jeff Parke, who we are in discussions with.”
(On Real Salt Lake M Nathan Sturgis…) “Nathan was a U.S. National Team player. He’s one of those players who is very good at changing the ball from one side to the other with good feet, to keep the ball moving. He’s a versatile player. He can play midfield. He can play in the back. I think vying those injuries he had last year, he would’ve been competing for an Olympic spot. He’s another player with tremendous upside. We think he’s a very good player. I was a player who at certain times in my career I had some muscle injuries, and after I got through that period, I never had a pulled muscle again. Sometimes it happens to players as they’re maturing and growing. We’re hoping to keep him fit, keep him healthy. We’re confident in our medical staff, and trainers. He’s a guy that we’re very happy to pick up.”
(On choosing only three defenders and shoring up the defense…) “I think it’s about our versatility. Jeff Parke, Nathan Sturgis can also play in the back, James Riley, Tyson Wahl. I think we’re in a good situation. There are also potential players out there that Adrian has touched on, USL players. I think we’re in a very good situation. There are also some international players. I think the balance of the team at the moment is very good.”
(On choosing Columbus Crew F Brad Evans over M Eddie Gaven…) “When you compare Gaven and Evans, first, they’re both very good players. We’ll start with Evans. He’s an exciting central player. I think he was a very big part of Columbus’ championship run. He can score. He’s a competitor. He has a great desire to improve as a player. He’s not afraid to shoot from distance, and that was an important piece for us as well. I had a chance to play with Eddie in New York, and he was at Columbus briefly when I was there as well. Eddie is an up and coming player as well, and I think either player you’re making a good choice. I think the way our Team is shaping up, Evans was a good selection. They’re both quality players.”
(On when formal training will begin for Sounders FC…) “They’ll report the middle of January. We will get them settled, and we will almost certainly begin training on the Monday, the 25th or 26th of January.”
(On talking with Jeff Parke prior to trade…) “Yes, I have had the opportunity to talk with Jeff. I talked to Jeff about the opportunity in Seattle. We talked about just the actual playing part of him coming to Seattle, and contributing. We did not discuss any of the financial or contract information. Jeff and I have a past relationship as teammates, just the excitement from our side to pick him up. It’s something where he has to make a decision that he wants to play and stay in MLS, and that’s something we’re working on.”
(On choosing LA Galaxy M Peter Vagenas…) “We picked a champion. He’s a guy that’s been in the battles, as Adrian said ‘played in the trenches’, and when we look at Pete, if not the best, he’s among the best passers in the league, and probably in the history of the league in possession and keeping possession of the ball. He’s a great leader, a competitor. He’s been a winner at every level. To have Pete come up to Seattle, I think his veteran leadership is going to be very important for us. We have some leadership with Ljungberg and Keller, and to just add to that a veteran player to help the younger players along is going to be a huge asset.”
(On timetable for playing in competition…) “I understand that the rights shift to Seattle on, I believe, the 28th of November. But the CBA, the Collective Bargaining Agreement, requires six weeks off. Long story short, we expect them to not be competing or playing unless it’s through our club until they report to camp in mid-January.
(On Chicago Fire M Stephen King…) “He’s a consistent player. You can rely on him everyday. He’s a good pro. He’s good in the middle of midfield. He’s very composed. We’re happy to have him. He’ll be a reliable guy for us.”