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October 7, 2012 at 10:13 PM

A stop and chat with Don Garber

garber mug.jpgMLS commissioner Don Garber made the trip to Seattle for Sunday’s blowout game at CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders beat the Timbers, 3-0, in front of 66,452 fans. He spoke to reporters at halftime and here is the transcripts of that interview:

* * *

(What does this say about the team and the league?) “I’m not even here on official duties tonight. I’m here just to experience it. I knew this would be a historic event as it was leading into this weekend. I was in New York at the Red Bulls game last night. I spoke with (Sounders majority owner Joe Roth) and I said, ‘Where are you?’ He said, ‘We’re at 67,000,’ and I hopped on a plane this morning and I’m going home on a red-eye in about an hour. It’s just another one of these great moments. We’ve been saying that a lot lately, but it’s really true. To be out in that stadium walking around on the field and seeing the fans — also seeing the Portland fans, 1,200 of them come up the freeway — is a great moment for the sport. Very exciting.”

(Do you think soccer-specific stadiums cap attendance too low?) “No. It’s right in almost every market. In New York, we’re looking at potentially having a larger stadium for the 20th team, if that should happen. Red Bull Arena is 27,000, the Galaxy stadium is 27,000, and until they’re hanging from the rafters like they are here, I think it’s the appropriate size. We can’t look at Seattle and think that we’re going to be able to do that in every market. It’s just a perfect alignment of the right pent-up demand and certainly great team branding, really focused ownership, passionate and knowledgeable fans, and a city that’s really embraced the team from the start. It was really a perfect storm.”

(And if so, that’s not a bad problem to have…) “We’ll take that problem.”

(Were you happy with how the allocation process worked out with Marcus Hahnemann?) “From a league perspective, we have no favorites. I don’t think we actually ever look at players and try to find a place where we think he belongs. We did that a lot in the early days of the league, even before I got there, and I don’t necessarily think that’s the right thing to do.”

(On the GM vote…) “I tried to put in a vote, but I wasn’t able to get it in.”

(What was your vote going to be?) “I love Adrian. I think he’s doing a great job. I don’t know how you could look at this and not think he’s doing a good job.”

(Is this Seattle unique or could it be something that catches on?) “I don’t know that it could happen in other markets, but it is part of what makes this team so special and what makes the Sounders such a unique brand. They’re very serious about it. I flew up here with Joe Roth and I said to him, ‘Hey, what are you going to do if Adrian gets knocked out?’ He said, ‘We’ll find a new general manager.’ I looked at him to try and see if he was kidding around, and he wasn’t. So they’re very serious about it.”

(Do you think the conference and playoff system is going well?) “I’ve got to tell you, we always get a lot of heat for our playoffs. We haven’t seen much heat so far in the latter part of the season. Look at the Eastern Conference, there’s only one team that’s clinched. [Ed note: Chicago was the second team to clinch today.] It’s certainly been a great race. We’re looking forward to our first year where the MLS Cup will be in a competitively earned site. We’re busy trying to figure out how to make that work and find out how we get the right hotel rooms and organize our league meetings and do all the things that we need to do to make that a special event. But it’s part of getting this league very focused on being truly authentic. I think this is a good way to go about that, even though it’s not looking like other soccer leagues, it’s certainly authentic for what we’re trying to do with our fans.”

(Could it be Buck Shaw?) “I think if we’re able to find a stadium for the Earthquakes, should they be in a position to host the game, it would be better I think for what they’re trying to achieve to have a larger stadium. I know there are a lot of their fans who are really passionate about the intimacy of Buck Shaw, but I’d much rather see tens of 1,000s of people who can experience something special.”


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