Whenever a Sounders FC head coach is named and arrives on the scene in Seattle, he’s got to like what he sees.
The team’s training grounds at Starfire Sports Complex continue to take shape and plans are going forward with respect to practice beginning in late January and series of preseason matches commencing shortly thereafter.
Installation of four fields will soon be complete. Construction of the locker room and other player and coaching staff facilities are reaching the final stage. Apparel is on order and equipment is arriving.
Just because there’s no coach, doesn’t mean the staff isn’t pressing forward, says one of the club’s newest additions, team administrator Grant Clark.
“Regardless of who is hired as coach, there are a lot of the things we are trying to put in place,” says Clark. “There are lots of things we can do to lay the foundation, to create the atmosphere for the experience we want the players and coaches to have.”
Clark and Vince Johnson, the team services director, are feathering the nest for the coaching staff and also easing the workload for others. For much of the past year, virtually every detail on the team side was the responsibility of general manager Adrian Hanauer and technical director Chris Henderson.
Now, in addition to Clark and Johnson, the team is staffed with an athletic trainer and equipment manager.
“A head coach has a lot of decision making authority,” Clark says. “But certain things are known, such as when we can bring players into market and start preseason, and we know we must schedule entrance physical exams. We know an MLS preseason will sometimes include trips out of the local market, and we know some of the locations that will work for us.
“We can start to pencil some of those preseason items,” he adds. “Other things will fall into place.”
A New Ballgame
This marks Clark’s second tour of duty in Major League Soccer and once again he’s involved in a startup. He was the director of team and business administration for San Jose from 1995 through the ’99 season.
“Basically, my role is to support the general manager, the technical director and the coaching staff and players, to make sure we take care of administration and business side of sport so they can take care of their job on the field,” he says.
A lot has changed since the formative days of MLS, all of it for the better, Clark claims.
“MLS has come a long ways since the beginning,” he notes, “and the No. 1 area is facilities.”
From his office window, Clark can scan the Starfire landscape, seeing the two FIFA-sized fields (one grass, one with the identical FieldTurf pitch as that at Qwest Field) and two modified fields being completed at the north end of the complex. Practically under his nose, a 4700-square foot addition encloses the locker room, players lounge, training room, equipment room and sauna.
“The training facilities at Starfire are second to none in MLS,” says Clark, “and Qwest Field is world-class. It’s a noisy stadium, and the fans have already thrown their support behind this team. The atmosphere is surrounding this club incredible. Those are all huge developments.”
When Clark moved to the Seattle area in 2001, he had no idea that he would one day reprise his role at the Quakes.
“Once I heard there would be a club, I wanted to be a part of it,” he remembers. “It’s a special feeling to be a part of what’s taking off here. To be part of a club that’s starting fresh from the ground up has a lot appeal to all of us.”
Take A Number
For those wishing to personalize their new Sounders FC kit for themselves or a gift, take a number. There are now six to choose from after four more players were issued jersey numbers this week.
Those assigned so far are Brad Evans (3), Sebastien Le Toux (9), Freddie Ljungberg (10), Kasey Keller (18), Nate Jaqua (21) and Sanna Nyassi (23).
Sounders FC jerseys have been the hot item since going on sale to the public Dec. 5. The best seller at the Qwest Field Pro Shop is the authentic (a.k.a., game jersey) home green, followed by the replica green and replica blue.
Inside the stadium last Sunday, Ljungberg watched the entire Seahawks-Patriots game from the home sideline, and came away impressed by the whole experience, especially the noise and enthusiasm of the Seattle fans.
This weekend, much of the team staff is on the road. Chris Henderson and Brian Schmetzer are in Texas to scout the College Cup finals.
Turn On, Tune In
Friday, Dec. 12
8:30 p.m. (PT), FSC, Al Ahly v Pachuca
Why Watch: Winner faces LD Quito in Club World Cup semifinal
Saturday, Dec. 13
6:40 a.m. (PT), Setanta, Liverpool v Hull City
Why Watch: Hull has given Big Four clubs problems
7 a.m. (PT), FSC, Manchester City v Everton
Why Watch: Toffees toughest on the road & City awaiting New Year’s reinforcements
9:30 a.m. (PT), FSC, Tottenham v Manchester United
Why Watch: Berbatov returns to Lane; Spurs could catch United looking ahead to Tokyo
Sunday, Dec. 14
8 a.m. (PT), FSC, Chelsea v West Ham
Why Watch: London derby finds Chelsea vulnerable at home
10 a.m. (PT), ESPN2, Men’s College Cup Final
Why Watch: Will Wake repeat & is a future Sounder on display?
11:30 a.m. (PT), FSC, Juventus v AC Milan
Why Watch: Two clubs with the most titles duke it out for second in Serie A
11:55 a.m. (PT), Setanta, Lyon v Marseille
Why Watch: Slumping leaders could be overtaken by OM
This might warm your toes. Saturday, Dec. 13, at 3 o’clock, the Emerald City Supporters are gathering at The Atlantic Crossing (6508 Roosevelt Way NE) to watch a replay of the Tottenham-Man United (to start at 4 p.m.) match from earlier in the day. ECS members receive drink special. So if you’re not a member, sign up the pub, get your scarf and card, and then grab a brew…The weather outside might be frightful, so the kids will be bundled-up for this weekend’s matches. President’s Cup finals to determine the state’s recreational champions will be held Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 13-14, at Starfire. A full slate of games begins at 9 o’clock each morning…Congratulations to five All-Americans from women’s college programs around the state. Katie Warner (Western Washington) and Meredith Teague (Seattle Pacific) made first team for NCAA Division II while Shannon Oakes (SPU) was second team. In Div. III, Janece Levien (Puget Sound) and Kelly Baker (Whitworth) earned second and third team, respectively. For men, Matt Pele (WWU) made second team Div. II…’Tis the season: the Bundesliga goes into hibernation following this weekend’s fixtures. By the time the Germans return from their winter break on Jan. 30, just think: Sounders FC preseason drills will be in full swing.