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September 22, 2011 at 2:51 PM

A stop and chat with general manager Adrian Hanauer

hanauer mug.jpgIn anticipation of Saturday’s Cascadia clash in Vancouver, reporters had a chance to talk to Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer today after practice. Topics covered including the rivalry, away fan ticket allocations and keeping a talented roster together.

* * *

(What have you made of the Cascadia Cup and rivalry this season?) “I’m not sure that the Cascadia Cup is the driving force, but the Cascadia rivalry no doubt is in fine form and certainly is going to continue to grow over time. The fact that a team can win a cup is certainly great, but I think rivalries are built on the natural markets and the competition. It is fantastic. We have chance to go up there and win some silverware, but mostly we want to go up there and win three points in Vancouver and continue to push for the playoffs.”

(Based on what you saw in the two games you hosted, would you be open to increasing allocation for away fans next season?) “We’ll wait for the end of the season to address it, sort of do a review of how things went. Again, one of the pieces to the puzzle that we will always think about is maintaining home-field advantage. One thing I can almost guarantee is that there will not be 20,000 Vancouver and Portland fans in our building, while there are 500 of our fans in their buildings. If there’s some sort of solution, some hybrid solution, then we’re certainly willing to look at that. This is a competitive league — salary cap, very few ways to gain a competitive advantage — and we’re just not going to give it up for the heck of it. And again, I’ve said this before, we’re greedy business people just like everybody else. Certainly we could sell more tickets and take some more revenue, but we have to balance what’s right for our team.”

(Vancouver is moving from Empire Field to BC Place after this game, do you think they’ve learned anything from this season?) “I’d be best off to leave that to them, but without having to stretch too far, I imagine one of the things they learned is that it’s really difficult to open up one stadium and then move to another one in the middle of the season. It’s hard enough being an expansion team as is, but to juggle multiple facilities, I can only imagine it would’ve been brutal. I’m sure they’re very much looking forward to BC Place and being able to put some roots in and set up shop for the long haul.”

(Will having a downtown stadium with adjustable attendance, much like you do, help them?) “I don’t know. Again, I hope for the best of success for them. It’s only good for the league. I’d hate to speculate as to how the new stadium will affect attendance. I know it’s a good, smart bunch of people running the organization so I can only assume that they’ll continue to grow over the next couple of years. How they manage their stadium and the supply and demand, I wouldn’t want to speculate for them.”

(Questions on Mauro Rosales’ contract negotiations were addressed in this post…)

(Knowing you still have goals you want to achieve this season, how much are you looking forward to 2012 and trying to keep this talented group together?) “I think it’s the most challenging part of my, Chris’s and Sigi’s jobs — certainly my job, I don’t know, maybe it’s not the most challenging part of theirs. When you come into the league as an expansion team you’re given a good deal of allocation money, which provides some flexibility on the cap. As you go through the first two to three years you’re required to use it, which means that end of three years you’re kind of left with zero or a small amount of allocation money. You remember we went through this at the beginning of the year with the college draft, where we made a trade to pick up some allocation money. We have a very talented team and great players who are getting older and further into their existing contracts, which either means they’re making more money because of their existing contracts or it means we have to renegotiate if we want to try and keep them. Situations like Mauro Rosales’ come up. To answer your question, it’s something we’ve been thinking about for a year, but it is a challenge. I’d be lying if I said we can just keep the same crew together forever and keep adding quality, because we just can’t. Something has to give. That’s what we did on a daily basis is talk about what next year potentially looks like. It doesn’t mean we would have to blow up the team for next year, but there will come a point where there are some difficult decisions to be made.”

(On rumors of SUM selling stake…) “I really can’t comment on it. I know that it showed up in SportsBusiness Journal. That was effectively rumors. Whether it’s true or not I can’t comment on.”

(The NFL has recently had to deal with potential flopping and faking injury, how do you think MLS done regarding that issue?) “I fully agree it’s a terrible part of our game. I can say that the positive is there have been a few cases this year where the league has come down on players, either fined players or gave suspensions. I think we should do it more and more. The other side of the coin of that is it’s an increasingly physical game and the one thing you don’t want to do is get it wrong going the other way, where you come down on a guy for faking it and he wasn’t faking it. I think there’s a balance to be had, but I’m all for turning up the pressure on stamping out the simulation and faking injuries.”

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