Let's Get it Started

Chris Henderson talks about hitting the ground running and preparing for the 2009 season.

For those who found Chris Henderson to be energetic on his play up and down the flanks, it will be no surprise to learn that he’s hit ground running in the MLS Seattle front office. Here, in Chris’ words, is a look at the job at hand for the new technical director.

I just got my laptop about 10 days ago and now I’m able to get a lot more done. I’m currently working out of the Sounders office. Thankfully, Brian Schmetzer let me use his computer when he wasn’t in the office.

It’s been an easy transition, really. We’re starting to get help and we’re beginning to build a base of all the data we’re going to need.

I’m usually here in the office until at least 6. I’m staying with my brother Sean in Seattle, so I’ll try to get a workout in at some point, have dinner and by the time I get back home it’s about time to go to bed and start all over again.

Having been in Kansas City with my family over the weekend, the other morning I was still on Midwest time. At a quarter to 5 I was wide awake, so I did my workout in the morning before coming to work

With Brian coming in, and Adrian getting ready for this year’s USL season, there’s the feeling of a team front office forming. We were talking about the Premiership weekend games the other day.

We’re in the process of setting up a system where every single MLS game is going to be on our desk the next morning in DVD or DVR’d. USL games will be part of our scouting this year, so there are a lot of games to see and study.

We need to get a lot of background on all the new players who have come into the league, both the foreign players and the new draft picks. We want to go into 2009 knowing about these new players. And we want to build information not just about players in MLS but in world soccer, and that’s it’s good that the owners are into this as well. It will definitely help when we go look for our foreign players.

That’s something that really impresses me about our ownership group. The whole group is very into what’s going on in world soccer and MLS. They are into the sport, and which players are doing well. They are not just here for the business side; they’re in it for the soccer side, which is great.

Although I know Adrian, I’m still getting to know the rest of our group. I’ve met with Joe.  I’ve seen Drew Carey at games in Los Angeles but never met him. I’m friends with the Anschutz family, and Tim Leiweke is the president of AEG, but I don’t know Tod. One of my best friends, Tim Harris, knows John Rizzardini. So I have connections through other people to a lot of the owners, and in the next few weeks we’re going to get a chance meet, to sit down and talk about the plan for 2009.

What I do know is that our owners are really committed to making this work. They’re also very interesting. Not a lot of teams have a comedian and TV star as one of their owners. That should make things fun. We kind of have that Hollywood aspect to our
group, which, aside from the Galaxy, is different from other teams. So when we want to do fundraising, we have star potential that we can tap into for big events. Hopefully we’ll get some stars flying up to watch the Seattle team play in ‘09. Know any other ownership groups that have that dynamic?

There are some other elements that will help make this franchise great. Our youth club and training center are among the projects I’m working on. We’re very fortunate in that we have an excellent base and exceptional talent already coming through our local clubs. Very few MLS cities can match what’s been building in our area, and that’s good for us. I’d say we’re similar to the New York/New Jersey area in terms of organization and talent.
With regard to the training center, our challenge is going to be having a grass field that we can use daily, that won’t get beat up. It’s often wet here, and pro players want to have a training field that’s in nice shape. It’s going to take an incredible grounds crew to keep that in tip-top condition.

I’m not going to give anything away, but there are some things that will happen in the stadium that will be different from what other teams have done. It helps having a world class, state-of-the-art stadium to do these kinds of things.

Our VIP treatment and everything that comes along with that will be very special. It’s what other teams may have talked about doing, but it will be a VIP treatment where you could really feel as though you’re a part of the club.

Some of the work is behind the scenes, having to do with scouting, agents and foreign players that come in. Again, I can’t tell what that is, but we’re setting-up a system here that, to my knowledge, does not exist anywhere else in the league. We’re in the process of working on it, and that’s going to help us tremendously, helping us to save time and find players more easily.

We should be prepared for next year’s draft combine. I think it was a tremendous experience for us this year, taking some ideas and learning what we need to do to in our scouting for 2009. Unlike other expansion teams, we’ve been able to examine the process as a whole beforehand. We know the setup, the little details and what to expect in terms of trade talks and maneuvering for positions while the draft is going on. It was definitely insightful for us. Our projections for the top picks were similar to those taken in the top 10. That said, you never know how those picks will turn out until the players develop. The very last pick could be the next star.

Developing and putting a team together is a real challenge. It’s something to prepare and be ready for with background and data leading up to it.

So, without giving any secrets away, that’s where things stand, and these are the subjects we’re dealing with here at work every day.