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January 23, 2012 at 12:40 AM

Hanauer on the returning group, potential moves, player development and ticket sales

hanauer mug.jpgReporters had the chance to chat briefly with general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer the other day at Sounders FC training. Here are a few highlights from a conversation that covered a number of topics:

* * *

(You’ve been able to keep most of a talented core together. How difficult was it?) “I don’t want to overstate it. It was a bit of a challenge, but we were able to juggle the cap in a way that we are able to keep this group out here that you see. Again, we have maybe put things off for a year. I think that as we win, and guys’ salaries go up, and you don’t get allocation money because you finish high, the league sort of forces you to adjust your thinking and adjust your roster. But we’re obviously happy that we do have the guys back that we have back. Standing here the last couple days watching, I’m as encouraged as ever that we’ll have a very, very competitive team.”

(And you think this will mostly be the squad you have for opening day? Do you anticipate any big-name additions or subtractions?) “I don’t think so. At this point it would be addition by subtraction. There could be a jaw-dropping addition, but there would probably be an equally jaw-dropping subtraction, if that were the case. Maybe a little tweaks here and there, but we’re very comfortable with this group. I don’t see a lot of weaknesses out there. Can we win an MLS Cup? I don’t know. But I know that this group is capable of winning an MLS Cup.”

(Do you think the bar went up throughout the league?) “I think we won’t really know until halfway through the season. I think every team has tried to raise the bar and obviously make themselves better. The team’s that didn’t finish so well have the allocation money to work with to build their roster. There are other teams that have seen some outflow on the roster, as well. Obviously Dallas has taken a few hits, Real Salt Lake has taken a few hits, Red Bull potentially some hits, so they’re obviously backfilling and trying to get stronger, as well. When I put my league hat on, I certainly hope that everyone has gotten stronger this year because it’s good for our league. We hope that halfway through the year we will be stronger as well.”

(Would you like to see the league have full reserve teams?) “Potentially. That’s certainly one way of doing it, of developing younger players. Right now … there still are a lot of good teams and a lot of good players in that sort of dysfunctional second division and third division, so that’s also a good way to develop players. Our 10 games that we play in the Reserve League are, I think, a good 10 games and maybe potentially (the league’s direction) is to build on that. But there’s always the possibility of some sort of affiliation with a League 2, some sort of more uniform League 2 that sits under MLS. So yes, more games and more important games for some of the reserve guys is a good thing. What that looks like in the future, I can’t guarantee.”

(How are season ticket sales going?) “I think they’re going well. I honestly don’t have the information. I think it was slow over the holidays and we’re sort of getting it ramped back up.”

(But do you have a sense that opening the Hawks Nest was justified?) “I think so. I know that season tickets are going very well. I don’t know numerically where we’re at relative to last year. … We also have the opportunity to sell more group tickets, individual-game tickets — so whether the increase in capacity ends up being replaced with pure season-ticket holders or other types of tickets, we’re equally happy and enthusiastic about that.”

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