General manager Adrian Hanauer kicked off Sounders FC’s end-of-the-year news conference Tuesday.
“I thought I would just say a few words very briefly, a little review of the season…” he started.
That was followed by about 700 words in about six minutes. So maybe not brief, but a good summary, I feel:
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“Obviously we’re disappointed that we’re sitting here instead of … preparing for a game against Houston. We certainly believe that we had some good moments and good stretches this season and that generally it was another solid season.
“A bunch of you have heard this before and know it already, but obviously the start of the season (went) extremely well, a rough stretch in the middle, qualified and felt a little hard done for another U.S. Open Cup title, had a very smooth qualifying process through the group stage of Champions League, were three points short I think of a second-place finish overall league-wise — obviously the counter to that is that I think we were seventh in the league overall — but clearly near the top in terms of overall performance throughout the league.
“With the playoff win over Salt Lake we felt like maybe we got the monkey off of our back there. No excuses, but the reality was we were on short rest for our first game in L.A. Maybe a call goes the other way in L.A., maybe a call goes the other way in Seattle, and, again, we’re preparing for an MLS Cup instead of trying to figure out what we’re going to do for next season.
“So, that said, and what was always going to be the case, is we were going to get through this season — whether we won an MLS Cup, whether we won an Open Cup, whether we won a Cascadia Cup, no matter what happened through Champions League — and we would reassess things. Every year we go through this process. I’ve said it every year that the team the following year will be different than the one we had this past year, and that will be the case again come next preseason. Whether the changes are moderate or dramatic, we’ll figure that out along the way.
“We’ve kept this core around for four years. You could argue about what the core is — certainly pieces have changed in and out, but there are a number of players (still here) and I guess key salary decisions we’ve made in terms of where we’re going to focus our dollars on certain positions on the field or certain players.
“Each year gets a little more challenging from a cap-management standpoint. When you’re an expansion team, you get a pile of allocation money that helps to buy down the salary cap. We were extremely efficient with our use of that allocation money, and then collected more along the way through qualifying for Champions League, and qualifying for the quarterfinals of Champions League, and through expansion and some transactions. But suffice it to say that a lot of that flow of allocation money has dried up, and we sit here today in certainly a very cap-constrained situation.
“So we’ve got our work cut out for us in terms of who we’re able to bring back, and then beyond that, what we decide to do with the group that was here in 2012, and how we move forward and how we construct a team that sets us up for next year and beyond and gets us into another position where we think we can have a better chance of winning an MLS Cup than we had even this year.
“I know there’s been a lot of emphasis on not winning a trophy this year, and although it probably makes good stories and headlines and things like that, I think that if we had won a Cascadia Cup and finished eighth in the league and were eliminated immediately (in the playoffs) and hadn’t qualified for the quarterfinals of Champions League, I think we would’ve considered this a less successful season than it was. So although our job and our focus is on winning championships and winning cups, our job is to balance what that really means, and winning a trophy and not being a very good team is certainly not what we’re after either.”