Full transcript of conference call with owner and GM Adrian Hanauer

Full transcript of conference call with owner and GM Adrian Hanauer

His full response in the 40-minute conference call can be found below.

(Opening statement…) “Clearly this was a very frustrating season for all of us in the organization—our fans. Probably the most frustrating of the five years that I’ve been with the club, maybe the most frustrating in the 12 years I’ve been with the Sounders. There are obviously lots of different factors that play into those sorts of frustrations and really on Friday morning after the Portland series we went to work on trying to fix those deficiencies. Clearly there will be a bunch of questions about Sigi [Schmid] and the coaching status…but just like every year in the past we’ve taken some time after the season ends to decompress a little bit, to catch our breath, to meet and talk through what went well and what didn’t go well, and what the solutions are to what didn’t go well. This year will be no different. We’re going to go through that process. We’re going through that process as of now. There are a lot of big decisions that ownership has to make over this offseason. We will take our time, be methodical, be rational, not make emotional decisions based on the pain and frustration of losing a playoff series like we did to Portland. That process will take place over the next couple-three weeks. We’re not in any massive hurry to make quick decisions, we just want to make the right decisions and get things back on track and get our noses to the grindstone to build for next season.”

(On making player decisions without a definitive coaching situation…) “No [it doesn’t make it difficult]. There’s a lot of housekeeping that we need to do over the next couple of weeks. Things like exit physicals and having conversations with players to see where their heads are at. The option dates for exercising players isn’t until December first, so we have two and a half or three weeks from now on that…I should have said this in my opening remarks, but Sigi is a winner. To me, he’s done a fantastic job over these five years. That said, this isn’t his first rodeo and he wants to be somewhere where he’s fully appreciated and supported. I want a coach in place that’s full appreciated and supported. We need to take this time to get there. Once we get there, then it’s full steam ahead.”

(On what he needs to learn in his conversations with Coach Schmid in the coming weeks…) “Joe [Roth] and I and Sigi will sit down. I think we’re going to sit down later this week and just go through the season, talk about the results, talk about the way we play soccer, talk about the history, the culture, the character of the team. Make sure we’re all on the same page still in terms of all those things…Being on the inside of this organization, obviously I have a lot of visibility on what happens on a day-to-day basis and I’ve told you guys before, I don’t always agree with everything Sigi does, he doesn’t always agree with the way I do my job, but we’re a super-functional organization where we work collaboratively. If you can call this season a failure, if you call this season underachieving, if you call this season adequate—whatever you say about this season—I know that we’re an organization. We win together, we succeed together, and we struggle and fail together. I know that everybody is always looking for a hide or a scalp and the head coach makes the big bucks, so the fingers are usually pointed at him. But, I’m the general manager and ultimately it’s my organization, so I don’t see that many fingers pointed at me, which, to be honest, kind of frustrates me. I think to myself, I have as much to do with this as Sigi, as Chris [Henderson], as the rest of the coaches, as the support staff, as the players. I know how complicated it is to have a successful organization and win championships. To come full circle on your question, it will be a conversation about the entirety of the soccer organization and making sure that we all bleed together, that we know what it’s going to take to get it that little bit better than we’ve been of late and help us get over the hump and finally get to a championship.”

(On if he supports and appreciates Coach Schmid…) “I do. Again, like I said, not all the time. I talked to a lot of my colleagues around the league and they have disagreements with their coaches just like I do, we do. The coaches have disagreements with the rest of their staff and their bosses, so I don’t think that’s dysfunctional. We still operate super cohesively and as an organization. I think, to me, the issue is sitting down, making sure philosophically we are on the same page and that there is mutual belief. Sigi has to believe in me and the rest of the organization and know that we support him, as well. Because if I told you that I believe in him, but he doesn’t believe in me or us, then I don’t think that’s a good situation either. The other thing I’ll just say is that there are some very obvious decisions that coaches make that get the spotlight…like who is the starting lineup? That’s like the number one issue for fans, and does that lineup turn into wins? I’m in that room, the assistant coaches are in that room…I don’t make those decisions, but I’m there when the coaches are making those decisions and if I had a violent opposition to some of those choices, I would stand up. It’s always easy in hindsight to say something didn’t work with a lineup. It’s hard to get it right on the front end. In addition to that, most people don’t see the myriad of things a coaching staff does to get everything prepared for that moment. Whether it’s the culture-building, the chemistry, the scouting, the evaluations on players, the motivation, getting guys fit. Again, I have to look at the totality of what happens in our coaching room and not try to react to the latest starting lineup that may not have worked.”

(On how he thinks Majority Owner Joe Roth feels right now…) “Joe and I are generally on the same page. The fantastic thing about Joe is he and I both had the same reaction Friday morning, which was, ‘You know what? Let’s take our time. Let’s get away for a day or two. Let’s catch our breath. Let’s figure out how we’re feeling as we communicate over the next few weeks.’ We’re not in any rush. The body of work generally has been good, albeit I’m as frustrated as anyone that we haven’t won an MLS Cup. Again, when you look at the body of work, it’s not hateful. He’s been super supportive and we’ll get together later this week and have more communication. Over a little bit of time we’ll come to a good spot. That said, we sat down in the coaches office for three hours this morning and were going through the issues full steam ahead. Credit to Sigi, who I’ve spoken with and said we want to take some time, but again, speaking to Sigi’s character, his reaction is, ‘Okay, I’m going to go to work to try and win us a championship. Let’s communicate as we communicate, but in the meantime I’m going to try and win a championship.’”

(On how the locker room functioned and if there was any dysfunction…) “I’d be lying I’d be saying it was the best locker room we’ve had in the five years I’ve been here. There were some tensions at times. I think with the way our season went, it lent itself a little bit to that tension. Starting the season losing, then we go through a great stretch, then we really struggle at the end. We had players coming and going with national team duty. We add Clint [Dempsey] late in the season, adding a new dynamic to the locker room because Clint is a strong personality. He’s going to be an absolutely fantastic personality for this team, but when you inject a strong personality in the middle of the season it changes the dynamic a little bit. Again, coming full circle to some of the other questions that have come up, those are the kinds of things I need to take into consideration—we need to take into consideration as we think about whether we’re going to point the finger at the head coach or whether we’re going to point the finger at the general manager and the sporting director…and the medical staff and everybody else. And the players.”

(On his frustrations with 2013 season…) “I think it was probably a combination of factors, some of which I have mentioned already. Certainly starting the season as we did puts you in a giant hole in the league, gets everybody on edge a month into the season, if you add in maybe a little bit of a tense locker room. Again, whether you call it bad luck or bad results just feeling like the results weren’t falling for us. Players coming and going with national team duty. And I’m going to back up a little bit. Again, finger pointed at me. Our team wasn’t settled when the season began. We were unfortunately still doing transactions and trying to get the cap managed and in order. Then, obviously, once we went on the bad run at the end of the season, you could cut the tension with a knife. I think everybody was on edge. It’s kind of just this combination of issues, and increased expectations from year to year. Certainly this is the town in this country – maybe you guys agree or don’t agree – it feels like there is more pressure in this town to win a championship than any other town. I feel that pressure as a general manager, as an owner, as a fan.”

(On the midseason additions of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins…) “It does certainly feel like as a club, and to some degree as a league, we are kind of taking the training wheels off a little bit. We did go out and obviously bring in some pretty big players in Oba [Martins] and Clint [Dempsey]. Again, not to make excuses, but the league is riddled with examples of making big changes and bringing big players in in the middle of the season and questionable results at best. I think for whatever reason you can kind of look at our season in a similar light. Again, that said, Clint, I think everybody can see the quality on the field. You don’t know what’s going on in the locker room but he is going to be a great leader on this team for hopefully many years. Oba, I feel bad for Oba because I know he got some crap for not being on the field at the end of the season and for us being able to keep him healthy. When I went back and looked, in the 12 months leading up to when we had some troubles keeping him on the field he had played 50 games, which is a lot of games. And to some degree no wonder his body was breaking down a little bit. I suppose if I have any regret as far as Oba goes, we probably should’ve figured out a way to shut him down for three, four, five weeks and let him rest his body. When he came to us, he flew from Europe to arrive that day, went in and played a few minutes in a game, went back to play with his national team, came back. I think the team was struggling at that point, jammed him in that game in Salt Lake. He reinjured himself. Again, another example of a guy coming in not getting a full preseason and having played so many games that he just needed a rest. […] I am looking forward to those two guys being able to put in a full year for us because I think those two guys can do a lot of damage in MLS.”

(On his letter grade for the 2013 season…) “B-minus. Anyone think it’s an F or an A?”

(On reasons for his frustrations…) “The timing sucked, although in some cases transactions happen in a certain sequence or at a certain pace and sometimes you can’t do much about that. The mix of players that we put in the locker room […] We would have liked to see Shalrie [Joseph] to have been able to give us more and stay healthy. That was frustrating. Again, that’s on me to go back and think through what I could have done differently throughout the year. Did I make the right transactions? Did we make too many transactions? Did we not make enough transactions? Were there opportunities that we missed?”

(On if a portion of the roster needs improvement…) “Look, I know this is sort of a cop out answer, but we want to get better everywhere. For sure there are certain positions that internally we know we need to focus on more than others. Before we start meeting with the players and making some of those player personnel decisions, I’m not comfortable announcing it for the world to hear. But we certainly have our priorities at this point.”

(On the offseason coaching assessment…) “Every year we go through the whole thing, starting with me. Am I still capable of this? Should I still be in this position? Is there someone better? So we go through the whole cast of characters. That said, obviously after certain years there is more focus put on certain positions, certain areas of focus within the organization. I supposed you could say maybe there is a little bit more thought going into this year, but for sure it’s something we go through every year.”

(On the coaching assessment, continued…) “Absolutely, that’s to me the crux of the issue when you are assessing a coach. I’ll say it again, if we are laying blame there is plenty to go around. Ultimately I’m the general manager so ultimately it comes back to me. That said, to your point, there is no questioning Sigi’s resume. He is a winner. Again, I don’t agree with everything he does, but he does one hundred things well for the few that I may not agree with. And again, you start switching coaches, you can get caught in the revolving door pretty quickly of changing coaches and I understand the emotional catharsis people have over being able to blame someone, Kathleen Sebelius, but my job is to weed through what really rationally is the best decision.”

(On the salary cap...) “Yeah, it’s going to be [a big factor]. It always is. And I’m sure every team feels the same way. But we do feel like we need to make some changes on the team to win a championship and so we are going to create some cap space. It will take time and obviously I’m not going to talk about how we will get there exactly, but there could be some decent turnover on our roster.”

(On how the Clint Dempsey signing affects the offseason…) “I’m not sure it really changed the approach to this coming offseason dramatically. We know we have got a fantastic player in the spine of our team, whether he is playing forward or in the midfield position. We also, again I know you really didn’t ask and no one has asked the question, but I guess I will say that there have been some rumors about players and without going into detail, I think that it’s highly likely that Clint [Dempsey] along with Ozzie [Alonso] and Brad [Evans] form a triumvirate of leaders on the team going forward. Along with a number of other guys on the team we feel that we have a very good core going into the offseason, but that doesn’t change the fact that we feel we need to make some other changes to get back on track.”

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