Thursday’s Sounders FC end of season press conference had both a feeling of familiarity and finality.
By the time things wrapped up an hour later, a few things came into focus for the 2015 season: Sigi Schmid would remain as the club’s Head Coach, the team would see the departure of several players, and the organization felt good about bringing in talent to bolster the roster following next week’s expansion draft.
Sounders FC Owner and General Manager Adrian Hanauer opened with remarks about just how far the club had come in their 2014 campaign and highlighted accomplishments both on and off the pitch. “I really believe it was a special season for this organization, no matter how you slice it,” he said. "In my mind, this was the most successful season in the Sounders history.
“It’s very hard to take a good team and make it a special team, and that takes a really special coaching performance to do that,” noted Hanauer, alluding to the Sounders fourth Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup title and the Supporters’ Shield win.
The accomplishments show the club has much to celebrate, but the elusive MLS Cup still lingers on everyone’s mind, including head coach Sigi Schmid, who was signed to a multi-year deal on Thursday.
“There is nothing I want to do more than bring an MLS Cup to this city and these fans. I am excited I have the opportunity to continue to try to do that,” said Schmid following the announcement.
Questions quickly shifted to the impact of the upcoming expansion draft and the team’s earlier announcement that it had declined the contract options of eight players, including veteran goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann—who announced his retirement on Instagram earlier this week—and Homegrown Player Sean Okoli.
“We are thinking about when we were on the Expansion Draft [ahead of the first season in 2009] and trying to think about some of the things that some of those teams are probably thinking about,” said Sporting Director Chris Henderson, referencing the draft that will help to bolster the rosters of Orlando City and NYCFC as they enter the league in 2015.
“We are obviously looking at all areas of the field to remain competitive,” said Schmid. “We know there is a Gold Cup in the summer, which means we are going to lose players for a period of time, we have to be prepared for that and know we have the right replacements.”
The afternoon kept a tone of thanks and positivity as the trio looks forward to the 2015 season. Hanauer continued to state his thanks to “the most devoted, passionate fan base in our league” and assured them that “our soul focus is to win championships, win games for them and to make them proud of being fans of a great organization and a great group of individuals."