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May 1, 2013 at 2:58 PM

GM Adrian Hanauer on trading Jeff Parke, USL PRO affiliates, Herculez Gomez interest

Reporters got a chance to catch up with Adrian Hanauer, Sounders FC part owner and general manager, after Wednesday’s practice to cover a number of subjects. Here is a transcript:

*     *     *

(How did you handle the situation with accommodating Jeff Parke’s request to be traded to his hometown club?) “Well, we never want to lose a good player from the organization, but I think I said it back then: Sometimes family trumps soccer. In this case there were enough issues and we’d had enough conversations where I felt like the right thing to do was to try and work this out with Philadelphia. And in the end, we think it was a fair deal. As you guys know, we had salary cap issues, as well, so something was going to have to give in terms of working our salary cap. So, we didn’t like losing Jeff, but I think it ended up working out.”

(How hard is that balance satisfying a player request with the good of the team?) “It’s not that common, so it’s not like we’re dealing with it on a regular basis. When it comes up, I think you can sort of suss out how urgent the situation is versus, whatever, a guy is a little homesick or wanting a change of scenery. But no matter what, it has to be a reasonable endgame for the home club, and in the end we thought it was. We wouldn’t have just given him away, because he had value as a player, and Philadelphia understood that. Now they have a hometown guy, so there’s added value in that. So it’s a balance that we have to work through, but it’s not a Richter 13 issue.”

(Would things have been different is there wasn’t a salary cap?) “I suppose that given the salary cap constraints, it was one more factor that led to the conclusion that this was a reasonable deal for us. Without the salary cap, I suppose what would’ve happened is we would’ve pushed harder for a player in exchange, potentially, instead of allocation money and things we needed to get below the salary cap.”

(Does the competition committee talk about situations where a player wants to play in a certain place, whether it’s Parke, Robbie Rogers or Herculez Gomez?) “The league didn’t say anything to us about Jeff Parke, nor the competition committee. Robbie Rogers is the rights of Chicago, so there’s a process by which he’ll end up on a team if he decides to play again. The league is designed with those processes and mechanisms in place to work out the situation out. I think almost invariably it does. There was the issue with Brian McBride, whose rights were owned by Toronto when he wanted to play in Chicago, and Toronto extracted a pound of flesh for Chicago to get his rights. So I think it works out all right. I haven’t been involved in any cases where the league has really had to step in and have a heavy hand in pushing some sort of agenda.”

(In many of the national stories about Jason Collins coming out, they referred to him being the first player to do so from one of the four major leagues. Does not being thought of yet as a major league stab you in any sort of way?) “It’s funny; I hadn’t thought about it. I don’t suppose it stabs me right now. I would say in 10 years if that’s what people say, then maybe it would stab me a little more. But our league is young. We’ve come a long ways in the last five years, so I guess it doesn’t surprise me that much that it’s still on the out looking in. As we pass the NBA and NHL in attendance, as we improve our TV ratings, as we end up the front cover of major publications, as we become more relevant in more markets, I think then if it happens it will either hack me off or just show the ignorance of the people who are saying it. But old habits are hard to break. Today it doesn’t really register, but probably in the future it will.”

(Is Tacoma competing with other local cities when it comes to a USL PRO affiliate? Are you committed to the idea but trying to find a location at this point?) “Well, I would say that we’re leaning toward and there are more advantages to a local affiliate as opposed to an affiliate in another state, or quite frankly even Spokane, which would be fantastic from a marketing standpoint and build fans, but if you call a player at 8:30 in the morning and need him at training at 10, it’s just not going to happen in Spokane. So then you look at the possibilities; there aren’t many. There’s Tacoma. There’s Everett. Maybe there’s Olympia. Maybe Kitsap. Potentially even doing something here at Starfire, but then it gets hard from a business standpoint to create a separate pool of fans and maybe separate sponsorships. So it’s not like we’re having a giant bidding war and a competition, but we are willing to explore alternatives to Tacoma. If there was a very good alternative in Everett, or even Mount Vernon or Bellingham or something like that, we would definitely be interested. We’ve had very good conversations with the people at the Rainiers. They obviously know what they’re doing in terms of sports marketing and delivering good entertainment value at Cheney (Stadium). So we like the idea of Tacoma. There are a lot of positives, like potentially working with the Rainiers group. That said, I think that after this exercise my hunch is that we will come to the conclusion that Cheney Stadium — although a fantastic facility — probably is a bad long-term stadium solution for a USL franchise in Tacoma. First because of the work and money that they’d have to put in to configure the stadium for soccer and the time required. There could be potential issues to their field. The conflict of a second franchise in Cheney. The size of the field. What you can actually do. The sightlines, so on and so forth. Not to sound like every other pandering professional sports organization in the world, but having a really good stadium solution — whether in Tacoma or somewhere else — probably ultimately will drive where we end up. And we’ve kicked around concepts with various groups and cities about whether there are solutions. That may be an existing facility that’s out there, and just putting a little bit into something like that, or starting from scratch.”

(How did you land on Cheney Stadium for this upcoming reserve game?) “Obviously we know the folks at the Rainiers, but our U-23 affiliates, the group that runs the U-23s and the Sounders Women sort of had this idea and put the group together. We sat down and had a powwow and had a dialogue, and it sort of started from there.”

(Did the U-23 game last year factor into it?) “A little bit, yeah. They had done it. Darren was happy with how it went down. The fans seemed to like it.”

(Do the rules allow you to call up a player from a USL affiliate whenever you need?) “It does. You can do that. Now that I think about it, I don’t think there are any MLS-USL partnerships that are within a drive. Philly-Harrisburg. How far is that? I don’t know. A couple hours? But the rules will evolve. Again, the long-term objective is some version of a (Major League Baseball) triple-A model, where just like the Mariners, they can call someone up like that, send someone down, get a rehab start — same concept. How the economics work and the ownership and who runs what is sort of a work in progress. But generally speaking the idea is that the major league club would control the technical and sporting side and the partner theoretically would do the sales and entertainment operations, and there would be some sort of equity split.”

(Is 2014 the target?) “We would love to do something by 2014.”

(Is there anything you can say on the record about potential interest in Herculez Gomez?) “Yes. He was a Sounder many years ago. (laughs) … No, love Herc. Great guy, great player, but his rights are held with Kansas City, so any conversation of him coming to the league has to start with Kansas City.”


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