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May 14, 2012 at 2:43 PM

A stop and chat with GM Adrian Hanauer

hanauer mug.jpgReporters got a chance to catch up briefly with Sounders FC general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer this afternoon out at Starfire. Here’s the transcript of that conversation:

* * *

(Do you think two extra Cascadia games this season take away from the value of the rivalries?) “For me, not really. It is still three points per game. For sure we go on the road to Vancouver and Portland an extra time, but we’re at home (an extra time) for some other pretty big rivalries: L.A. and Salt Lake. But that said, we’re not oblivious to the fact that these are big games for our fans, for the club, for U.S./North American soccer — these games do get more attention. Ultimately, on the technical side we have to keep grounded and keep focused on the goal, which is to collect points.”

(What has changed in Vancouver this season?) “I wouldn’t want to speculate on what’s changed. The things from the outside are obvious — there’s new management in place, there’s a new head coach, there’s a new staff, there are new players, so on the field I imagine that’s what’s changed. I don’t know if chemistry has changed. Certainly winning helps chemistry and winning becomes a habit, but I can’t say necessarily. From the outside, that’s what appears to be different.”

(Have you been up to their new stadium yet?) “No.”

(You’re not the MLS attendance leaders right now. Montreal is ahead averaging about 40,000 a game. What do you make of that?) “It’s exciting. It’s exciting for the league. I don’t think they’ll stay there very long, which is unfortunate. Again, big crowds, more excitement and more engagement within the league is just a good thing. I’m very happy with our 39,000 per game, so if somebody gets to 42- or 44- or 46 (thousand), we’ll try to compete and our fans, I’m sure, will take that as a challenge. But ultimately, it’s good. It’s a good thing.”

(From your experience in the USL, did you think the Canadian markets would become what they’ve become in MLS?) “Yes. Without being overly sure of my prognostication in terms of those teams, I’ve always believed that Canada was a different animal when it came to soccer support. They don’t have quite the competition that we have in this country, whether you look at college sports and the fact that that’s not in those markets, generally. Some of them have NBA, but NHL is the one massive competitor for that relevance in the market. They certainly have football, American-style football, but it’s not as big as the NFL. So I think from a competition standpoint, from sort of a heritage/connection to the crown, and from the history that it’s shown with the support in Montreal, in Vancouver, I was pretty convinced that it would be successful. You never quite know how successful. Again, it’s fantastic for the league.”

(You hear the word “rivalry” associated with you guys more so than just Vancouver and Portland these days — e.g. L.A., Real Salt Lake. Is that a good thing? Does it affect the natural rivalries at all?) “It’s something I’ve noticed, as well. I think that our atmosphere in our stadium turns just about every game into a rivalry game, because teams come here and they’re excited to be here, they’re pumped up and they want to perform well in front of 40,000 fans. That creates a little bit of edginess and tension and pressure in itself, which then leads to a very competitive, sometimes physical game, which then leads to them becoming more and more rivalry games. Ultimately, again, it’s good for our fans, so that’s good for the organization. It’d be nice to occasionally have a game that didn’t feel like a rivalry game from a technical standpoint, but those rivalries continue to build interest and relevance in the market place. If that’s the tradeoff, then I guess we’ll live with it.”

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