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December 10, 2013 at 7:08 PM

Notes and quotes from the presentation portion of Sounders FC’s business meeting

Seattle Sounders FC LogoThere were several speakers during the presentation portion of Sounders FC’s end-of-the-season business meeting Monday, including owners Joe Roth and Drew Carey, owner/GM Adrian Hanauer, coach Sigi Schmid, VP of business operations Bart Wiley, and a representative from the Alliance Council.

Posted below are some highlights — notes and quotes — from those presentations. You can check out the video of the Q&A portion in the previous post.

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DREW CAREY, Sounders FC part owner (briefly via Skype)

“Even though it didn’t end the way we wanted it to, I thought we had a good season. … None of us were happy with the way it ended, but that’s sports, man. I wish you could have winning seasons by sheer force of will, but that’s not how it goes. I think we’re going to come back better and stronger out of us this.”

JOE ROTH, Sounders FC majority owner

“The first thing on my mind is an apology. I’m going to apologize as majority owner, and as Harry Truman said, the buck stops (here). I’m going to apologize for me and everybody you see up here for the way the season ended. I don’t mean the Portland thing, I know you’re all obsessed with Portland, I’m sorry that I don’t share it, It doesn’t ring for me coming from New York and Los Angeles. I’m talking about the last 10 games of the season.”

“We had the most unusual year I’ve ever seen a sports team have. We came out and we didn’t win anyone of our first five games. Then for 22 games, we were by far the best team in MLS. … We were in first. We were the odds-on favorite to win the Supporters’ Shield. Then the season started to end when we tied the Red Bulls, 1-1, at home. It was a game I think we probably should’ve won 4-1. From that point on, for the last 10 games of the season, we won one game. We were terrible.”

“The first (comment) whenever these things happen is, ‘Fire the coach! Fire the coach!’ Sigi and Adrian and I spent a couple hours in Los Angeles right after the debacle with Portland. And again, the buck does stop here. Sigi has won more games than any MLS coach ever. He’s taken teams to championships before with Los Angeles and Columbus.”

“It’s our responsibility, collectively, to put a team on the field that has chemistry. What happened in those last 10 games, there are no excuses. I’m not talking about injuries or national team call-ups or anything like that. The chemistry of the team, within the locker room and on the field, wasn’t there. There were too many players thinking about themselves over and above the value of the team.”

“When I saw Salt Lake and Kansas City (in the MLS Cup), I didn’t see two great teams. What I saw was two teams that believed in themselves, that had chemistry, that had leadership on the field. It made me reevaluate my thoughts about the league, which is … it’s really about the team. The effort has to be with the team, and the chemistry has to be with the team. These are not 14 year olds. The coach can’t go in there and say, ‘Go run through a brick wall,’ to a guy who’s played in nine leagues in seven years.”

“They’re professional athletes and they’re not children, so I can’t lay it on the coach. I can’t lay it on Adrian. I can’t lay it on Chris Henderson. I can’t lay it completely on me. I have to say, collectively, what you are going to see next year, is a team of people who are … going to do everything they can to win. They are going to be working-class, hard-working players. Players who will run through that brick wall because they need to run through a brick wall.”

“For some people it’s the joy of winning. For other people it’s the humiliation of losing. For me, it was about the humiliation of losing. Frankly, our team, for the last 10 games, did not have that feeling. It was too much individual thought, too much individual play and bad chemistry in the locker room. All that can be and will be and is in the process of being changed as we sit here right now.”

“You might question some of the moves we make. They might not make sense to you, individually or on paper, as to what’s going on, but trust me, it’s all to get one thing: on-the-field leadership, chemistry in locker room, chemistry on field, selfless play, very advanced guys who can close, and working class people who are going to make sure that we don’t lose.”

“What was embarrassing to me mostly about this team, ultimately as we finish, was … the passion on the field didn’t match the passion in the stands. That’s horrible. That’s absolutely the worst crime that can be committed.”

“The fact of the matter is, I can’t stand up here and promise you an MLS Cup, but I can promise you a team that expects to be in that final game, year in and year out. There is no excuse not to be in that final game.”

“I swore I wasn’t going to point anyone out, but I have to. DeAndre (Yedlin) is only 20 years old and he’s here tonight. He is exactly the prototype of the player we need. He’s fearless, he’s fast, he’s gutsy, he’s willing to do anything, when he makes a mistake, he’s fast enough to get back — he’s a guy who has all the future in the world. The good news is, the system we’ve been working with Adrian and the guys, we have some very good academy players, very good U-16 and U-18 players, so the future is definitely is ours. The present we need to make happen today.”

BART WILEY, VP of business operations

Wiley hit a lot of points, but I’ll pass along some highlights in bullet form…

— The team will open up CenturyLink Field to full capacity for five regular-season games in 2014, exact games to be announced. That means the team will likely set another attendance record. Average attendance in 2013 of 44,038 was 22nd best in the world.

— Season-ticket membership was up last season and people are renewing at 92 percent going into next year.

— The team got nice national and international exposure through specials on HBO, Bloomberg-TV, a book by Mike Gastineau, and a documentary film by Scott Levy.

— The youth system continues to grow and the team will have a USL PRO team of affiliate in 2015 after the reserve league goes away after next season. The Sounders will either operate their own USL team or partner with an existing team.

— Xbox will remain the jersey sponsor in 2014 and the team is “actively talking to them about extending the relationship.” There will also be a new third kit as Super Cyan will be retired.

— Wiley said MLS teams are limited to 14 national-television games a season. Seattle is set to have 13.

— The Sounders have had a standalone website, but they will now begin to integrate into the league platform.

— Lastly, there will be a friendly in 2014 after not having one this past year. Wiley said they hope to have details soon.

STEPHANIE STEINER, Alliance Council representative

A couple key points were that 2014 Cascadia Cup away-fan allocation is under discussion, the council was happy with the team’s response to the wanding debacle, there will be some recognition of the 40th-year anniversary of the NASL Sounders, a new season-ticket holder’s scarf was revealed, and there will be some adjusting to a council that doubled in size this past year, perhaps to include an executive committee.

ADRIAN HANAUER, Sounders FC part owner and general manager

“I want to apologize, as well. I know Joe says the buck stops with him, and for sure he’s the majority owner, but I’m the second-biggest owner and I’m the general manager. The thing you have going for you as a club is a lot of people saying, ‘The buck stops with me,’ and a lot of people ready to stand up and take responsibility and make sure that we get things right.”

“As a lot of the people in this room and on this stage will attest to, there is no one that hates losing more than me — maybe to a physical detriment, certainly to the rooms in which I watch the games.”

“There were some highlights from this year. As painfully as the season ended, we did make the playoffs for the fifth-straight year. You know I actually had to be reminded a couple of weeks ago that we played in the semifinals of the CONCACAF Champions League and were a goal away from making the finals of the Champions League, which is a massive accomplishment. Again, it seems like three and a half years ago, but it was just this past March.”

“There were certainly lows, and we’re not going to shy away from those. The first piece of it was that our roster was unsettled at the start of last year and preseason. We were still bringing players in, players were leaving, again, no excuses, but it led to some uncertainty and some inconsistency in the beginning of the year. … Fewest wins in all competitions, road record and failure in the Cascadia Cup.”

“Jordan Morris (is) a player you should keep your eyes (on).”

“Qualifying for the playoffs five years in a row is difficult, as seen in only two other teams getting there. Our league, the way it is structured, the way the college draft works, the way the salary cap works, it is designed to drive the good teams to mediocrity and allow the bad teams to get better. So consistency is one thing that is very difficult in our league. We have high expectations to be a championship contender every single year. The league tries, by its nature, to hinder us from doing that, but we will fight and claw and scratch and be creative and be smarter than our competitors and do everything in our power to win a championship every single year.”

Hanauer went over some key dates:

Dec. 15-17 Sounders FC Combine in Las Vegas
Jan. 10-14 MLS Combine in Florida
Jan. 16 MLS Draft
Jan. 25 Training camp opens
Jan. 29 Travel to Tucson
Feb. 5 vs. San Jose
Feb. 8 vs. Portland
Feb. 19 Travel to Charleston
Feb. 26 Carolina Cup opener
March 2 Return to Seattle
March 8 First Kick

“Our overall injuries were up about 10 percent. Some of that can be isolated to a couple of players. … That’s on us to try to do our best to select players that aren’t going to be injured. That is something that will continue to focus on.”

“We’re determined to be better than our competition in (youth development). The USL team that we mentioned earlier is a huge piece in this.”

SIGI SCHMID, head coach

“I’m going to use a different word: disappointing. We as a coaching staff and the players, we’re very, very disappointed with how the season ended and what happened at the end of the year.”

“To give some insight into our day as coaches, usually I start the coaches meeting as like 8:45. … The meetings went from 8:45 to 8:30 starts, to 8:15 starts, to 8 o’ clock starts, because we were constantly probing and trying to figure what we needed to do — how we could it, how we could tweak it. So it’s an ongoing process.”

“It eats at me. I’d wake up at night. It bothers me. I’ve been with three clubs in this league, this is the club that’s dearest to my heart. I’m from Los Angeles, but this is the club that’s dearest to my heart. When we don’t succeed, it tears me up — it tears me up inside. A lot of times I can’t show that. I can’t rant and rave and scream at the reporters after games. I have to be a professional, they tell me, although I still think I paid an $800 bill to the L.A. Galaxy for a little damage in their locker room. The club wouldn’t pay that. I had to pay that.”

“We didn’t forget how we want to play; I think we got away from it a little bit. Offense and defense is intertwined. You defend to get the ball. You defend so you can attack. That’s my philosophy and that’s our philosophy as a team. But defending starts not with your back four; defending starts with your players up high. We have to get back to pressurizing our opponents. To do that you need players who are willing to do that, you need players who are going to do that, and you need players who are capable of doing that.”

“Everybody makes a big thing about systems: Is it a 4-4-2? Is it a 4-2-3-1? One man’s 4-4-2 plays differently than another man’s 4-4-2. And one team’s 4-2-3-1 is different than another team’s 4-2-3-1. It’s always an interpretation of the individual players that you have. They tweak and they make it unique and they make it special. It’s not the system. I know you hear a lot about that, and I just read a story by Ancelotti, I was just over in England to talk to Arsene Wenger, watched Arsenal train, watched some games, and it’s all about how can you use the talents of your individual players. Coaches that eventually fail, in my mind, are coaches that get so hung up on their system being the key to success that they forget about the individual players that do it.”

“Defending up high, pressurizing the opponent is very important. Keeping possession of the ball is also very important to us. To complete passes in the attacking third of the field is the most important element of being able to be successful and score goals and win games. That’s what we have to improve upon.”

“One of the statistics that we were worst on this year was shots on goal. Not shots, but shots on goal. The only teams that had less shots on goal than us were teams like Chivas, D.C. United and Toronto, which were all what you would consider bad teams. Are we getting shots? Yes, we’re getting shots. Is the accuracy of our shooting good enough? No, it’s not. One of the things we discussed with the players is, ‘How can we alter training so we become better at that?’, because obviously we weren’t good enough.”

“At the end of the day, we conceded too many goals. It’s the most goals that we’ve conceded. … That has to be improved upon. We have to have center backs who individually can defend 1v1, but can also start our attack intelligently, but can also dominate the opponent they’re playing against. It’s one thing to defend and make things equal. There’s another thing to win the duel and to win the battle and get somebody who’s dominant. Is he dominant in the air? Is he a dominant 1v1 defender? Does he have a look in his eye that Joe mentioned? Does he have that desire? Those are the things that we’re looking for. A lot of our players have that.”

“You talk about where we were chemistry-wise, it wasn’t like we were throwing things at each other in the locker room. It wasn’t where we were entirely together either. I’ll be the first to admit that. … We will be completely together next year. We will be a unit that will go down fighting, kicking and screaming, but that’s something you need to establish from Day 1 when we begin training. For us, there were so many changes this year, by the time we got settled from people moving in and out, it was hard to establish that.”

“We used to (focus a lot of our attack) through wing play — that’s been sort of our standard operation in our first four years of play, for sure. This year, it fell off a little bit because of injuries. Everywhere I’ve coached, wing play has been an important part of my team. Whether it was back in UCLA with guys like Cobi Jones and Chris Henderson, to when I was in L.A. where I still had Cobi, to Columbus where I had Eddie Gaven and Robbie Rogers, to having players like Steve Zakuani and Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez who we got wing play out of here. Last year we lost our wingers, so we had to find a different way to get width. So we tried to get width from our outside backs, and DeAndre gave us tremendous width on the right-hand side of the field. Now we have to make sure we establish width on the left-hand side of the field.”

“There are a number of players on this team where if you think I was disappointed or Joe was disappointed or Adrian or you were disappointed, they were more so disappointed. They’re not just clocking it in and handing it in. It’s personal for them, as well. Those guys who are going to stand up and those are the guys you’ll see on the park next year and those are the guys you’ll see put in that effort.”

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