There are many elements behind the scenes that help Sounders FC run successfully. On Thursday, one of those elements was recognized as the best in Major League Soccer when Nolan Myer was presented with the Equipment Manager of the Year award at the MLS Club and Executive Awards.
Myer and his staff of Brett Johnson, Scott Tranilla and Elliott Allen faced many obstacles in 2013 with Seattle’s ever-evolving roster of players and a travel schedule that is among the most grueling in MLS. However, 2013 saw a very human element to the typical challenges that the year presents.
On October 11, while the team was facing the grind of a playoff push in the final month of the regular season, Tranilla’s wife, Nicole, unexpectedly passed away at their Bremerton home. How the equipment staff and the rest of the team responded to that tragedy spoke volumes of the team as a whole and how close they become while spending so much time together throughout the year.
“We are a family here and that’s one of the great things about this team and this organization. You really do feel like a family and seeing the players rally around Scott … it definitely became our number one priority,” Myer said. “It was great to see the team support him and the four of us become even closer and more a part of each other’s lives on a personal level. A tragedy like that is going to bring people closer together.”
Players and staff alike offered their support to Tranilla and the equipment staff in the wake of his wife’s passing and while that sentiment was palpable on a day-to-day basis, it was never clearer than at Nicole Tranilla’s memorial service in Bremerton. Sounders FC was made aware of the time and location of the service, and the vast majority of players and coaches made the commute to Bremerton to be by Tranilla’s side in his greatest time of need.
“Everyone who was there chose to be there on their own. I’m sure it was overwhelming for Scott to see that,” Myer said. “One of the biggest things that came from that was just how appreciative you become and how aware you become of how much these guys care about you. That support was a reflection of how much everyone cared about him as a coworker and as a friend and appreciate what he does for them. It was a really great moment for our team and not something that the fans will see.”
Myer and his staff faced other challenges throughout the year as well. With the August acquisition of Clint Dempsey headlining a shift in the roster that saw seven players come in and five players go out after the season had already started, Myer had a lot to stay on top of throughout the year.
In addition to the on-field needs of the players, Myer also had to be cognizant of what equipment the team had available. Because of many factors, the club nearly ran out of the its signature Rave Green jerseys in 2013 and Myer was the one that had to ensure that the team was fully equipped each day.
“In some respects, this year was one of our harder years. We had a few more guys this year that like to give away jerseys. We had changes midseason and had to print new gear for the new players,” he said. “Guys like Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins – their jerseys are in high demand with fans and opposing players swapping after the game. It was just one of those years and hopefully we will be better prepared next year.”
The job description of an equipment manager goes far beyond just putting jerseys on players’ backs though. Myer and his staff also help set up the field for training each day, set up the locker rooms at the team’s Starfire training facility as well as at home and on the road for each match and do everything they can to ensure that the day-to-day operations of the players and coaches runs as smoothly as possible.
“Ultimately our job is to make sure the players and coaches only need to worry about playing the sport and coaching the sport,” he said.
While that means assuring that players have all the soccer equipment they need, Myer goes well beyond shoe sizes and clean laundry. He is the one that always had a fresh pack of cinnamon gum at the ready because it was Kasey Keller’s preferred gameday flavor.
He is also the one that players turn to for entertainment on the road. With an extensive DVD collection, along with all of the amenities like extra headphones, batteries, pens and playing cards, Myer becomes the most popular person at the airport when Seattle goes on the road.
“I like to try and provide some things that might not be considered essential, but will make the guys more comfortable,” he said.
Those small details would never be noticed by a fan or onlooker but have helped make Sounders FC reach the heights that it has.
When Myer hears MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s aspirations of being one of the top league’s in the world, he knows that it applies to much more than just the quality of play on the field and he tries to ensure that those lofty goals trickle all the way throughout the organization.
In addition to Myer, several others on Seattle’s staff were recognized at the ceremony on Thursday. The team was given awards for Club Broadcast Staff of the Year and Match Presentation Staff of the Year, while Chris Lawrence was named Ticketing Executive of the Year and the ticket sales staff were recognized individually for their sales numbers.