Adrian Hanauer has very specific goals for the Sounders FC.
Winning championships is primary among those, though, so when he looks back on the club’s first four years in Major League Soccer, it is with a bit of hesitation.
He has pride in the success of the club that ranks second behind only the LA Galaxy in the standings since 2009. They are also even with the Galaxy with three championships over that time, with the Sounders winning three consecutive US Open Cup titles while the Galaxy won two MLS Cups and one Supporters’ Shield.
“As an owner, I look back and I’m extremely proud and I can appreciate some of the brilliant moments that we’ve all had these four years,” Hanauer said. “Specific games, specific goals, specific saves, specific trophies, specific events and recognition of some of our players. When I think about those moments, it certainly leaves me awestruck to some degree.”
While the owner and fan in him is pleased with the unprecedented success Seattle has been able to attain in their first four years in MLS, the general manager side of him is also driven to accomplish even more.
That emotional dichotomy makes any retrospective look at Seattle’s first four years difficult for Hanauer.
“It’s hard for me, combining those, to look back on four years and think of it as just this warm, fuzzy, glowing, enjoyable four years. When it comes down to it, for those of us who are here every day busting our butts trying to win championships, it’s work. And it’s hard work,” he said. “It’s 24/7, 365 days a year obsession. We don’t always get it right, but we do obsess about it every single day. I have enjoyed the last five years, but it’s an angst and anxiety ridden enjoyment.”
The GM side leaves Hanauer smiling when the maneuvering pays off and the Sounders come out victorious, but also second-guessing when the match ends and the Sounders don’t find themselves on the winning end.
That side of him can trade young, local talent Lamar Neagle along with another cult hero in Mike Fucito to land Eddie Johnson, who would go on to be the club’s top scorer with 14 goals in 2012.
Making bold moves like that to bring out the best in the Seattle roster is part of what has made Hanauer successful as a general manager in MLS and in his time with the Sounders at the USL level, where they won two league titles.
“I love building the vision and philosophy and the chemistry in the club. And I love working with the coaches and the scouting department and the sports science and medical. I love working with the players on a day-to-day basis and I love training sessions,” Hanauer said. “I don’t like the games all that much.”
Gameday offers such a stark contrast for the businessman in Hanauer.
That is when the angst and anxiety of working in pro sports reach their apex.
“They are just so agonizing for me. If we have a three goal lead and we’re past 90 minutes, I can enjoy myself for the added time,” Hanauer said. “But other than that, they’re just not that fun for me as a general manager.”
He isn’t alone in that broad range of the emotional spectrum though. While Hanauer watches in a box with technical director Chris Henderson, another owner, Drew Carey is a few suites away experiencing the same emotional roller coaster.
Like the mild-mannered Hanauer, Carey is a different person on gameday than the comedian who rose to success on the stand-up circuit and eventually got his own sitcom and hosted his own improv show before getting the hosting gig on The Price Is Right.
Even in the moments leading up to the match, Carey is the jovial character you’d expect. After matches, though, he goes through the same emotions as the fans in the stands – in large part, he is one, himself.
“The only time I really get mad is from Sounders games. I don’t want to be like that about anything,” he said, noting that not even LA traffic bothers him anymore. “I want to be nice and zen and love the world. It annoys me and it’s a huge flaw that I’ve discovered in myself that I have to fix. That’s something I’m going to work on for next year. I used to only get really mad in traffic, but I’m over that now.”
Also like Hanauer, there is a side to Carey who can also look back on 2012 and the three seasons that preceded it with fondness and optimism.
“I kept thinking about what I would change this season. Nothing. I think we put together the right balance and a couple of tiny plays here and there didn’t go our way,” Carey said. “You need some breaks to win the championship.”
Both Carey and Hanauer are happy with Seattle’s success, but far from content. Hanauer is now out on the path to building the Sounders for 2013, with training camp just over a month away and an important Champions League date against Tigres from Mexico in early March.