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February 26, 2013 at 8:27 PM

GM Hanauer on the Obafemi Martins pursuit, MLS Cup as more of a singular goal and more

Reporters got a chance to catch up with Sounders FC general manager and part owner Adrian Hanauer after Tuesday’s practice. The interview covered a few different topics; here is a transcript…

*     *     *

(Do you feel like things are getting close to complete in terms of offseason/preseason roster work?) “Sure, we’re getting closer. I’d say still a work in progress. Obviously lots of information out there about Obafemi Martins — again, a player we are hopefully circling the wagons on and maybe with a little bit of luck able to bring into the organization. Obviously not quite finished if we’re talking about a player of that quality who could be added to the team, but yeah, we’re getting there.”

(Is that a move you want to have done in this transfer window?) “Yes.”

(That would mean clearing a DP slot. Do you have any update on those efforts?) “Again, a piece of the work in progress, and we have until March 2 to get that all finalized. We’ll just let it play out as it does.”

(Can you announce the signing before a DP slot is available?) “We cannot add a designated player to the roster until one were to come off. I’m not very worried about the announcement part of it, but in terms of how we manage our roster and who can play, those are the pieces that have to fall.”

(But you’re comfortable with the team you’ll put out there Saturday?) “Yeah. I think I’ve said in a perfect world some of these pieces would have come together a little faster. Shalrie (Joseph) would have been a little further along. Djimi (Traore) would have been a little further along. Maybe we’d have gotten a deal done for another player coming in. Certainly in respect to the Champions League that’s a little bit disappointing. But ultimately our big target is an MLS Cup, and we want to be peaking in September, October, November, December. It would be great to be able to peak and be as strong as we’re going to be all through the season, but if I had to pick one, it would be September through December.”

(Does it feel like there’s a more singular focus on MLS Cup this year?) “It feels that way. And it’s not like we’ve come out and stated that all of a sudden Open Cup isn’t important, Champions League isn’t important, but it does feel like the team has come together and put a pretty big bullseye on MLS Cup. I think getting that next bite last year, sort of getting over the hump against (Real Salt Lake) and then falling short against L.A. has redoubled our emphasis and efforts towards that goal. So I think it’s fair to say that our eyes are a little more clearly on MLS Cup, but it’s not something that we’ve organizationally said, ‘This is the priority now, not those other tournaments,’ because we want to win everything.”

(So you won’t be going to Open Cup games without Sigi?) “No.”

(Then does CCL still feel like a high priority?) “Absolutely. Look, we’re a deep team. We’ve got fantastic quality up and down the roster. We’re confident in our abilities. We want to win CONCACAF Champions League. But again, I would think it’d be disingenuous to say a minimum of three players who can potentially add to the team not being in the lineup — well, Pat (Ianni), that’s four — doesn’t affect our abilities. But we’ve got a deep, quality squad and it’s clearly going to be a massive task given the strength of the Tigres team and just the realities of the differences between Liga MX and MLS. Those guys like Tigres are spending three-, four-, five times as much on salaries as MLS teams, and it makes it tough to compete.”

(How does it affect you having the games so early in the season?) “Look, it’s a disadvantage, but it is what it is. RSL got through it two years ago, but if you’re in midseason form, you’re just going to be fitter. We just have to know that and make the tactical adjustments to try to level the playing field a little bit. We’re going into Monterrey and we’ll try to get a result.”

(How do you get playing time for younger players on the roster?) “We have reserve league games that come up pretty quick, and ultimately I think there’s a long-term solve, which is the partnership with USL. It’s why I was such a huge proponent of it and I think it’s such a good step for us. Presumably, not this year but next year we’ll have a USL partner, whether it’s local or already exists somewhere. And it’ll be a fantastic opportunity for us to get a number of young players — a minimum of four, maybe six or eight or ten — significant minutes in meaningful games throughout the course of the year. We’ll do our best and piece it together this year like we have been in years past, but it won’t be optimal until we really have that good partnership. There’s no workaround for getting guys meaningful games.”

(How many players do you think you’ll carry on the roster at the start of the year?) “Flexibility is between 28 and 30, and I wouldn’t want to commit to anything right this minute.”

(Can you confirm teams no longer get allocation money for leaving the last couple roster spots open?) “That’s accurate.”


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