Humiliated 7-0 losers in its lone friendly match of this season, Sounders FC hasn’t decided what it will do in terms of scheduling friendlies in 2012.
“I think the only thing that we have decided is if we do it we need to do a better job of thinking about the entertainment that we provide our fans on our side of the equation,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said Thursday. “As (coach Sigi Schmid) said, if we had it to do over again, I think we would have played our starters longer and played it a little differently. We’re certainly licking our wounds and reassessing things, but we haven’t made any conclusions. ”
In 2009, the Sounders included two international friendlies as part of their season-ticket package: a 2-0 loss to Chelsea and a 4-0 loss to Barcelona.
In 2010, that jumped to three: a 3-0 win over Boca Juniors, a 2-1 loss to Celtic, and a 3-1 win over Chivas de Guadalajara.
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After hearing some negative feedback from fans, the Sounders promised a single friendly this season against a world-class opponent.
They delivered Manchester United. But a competitive 1-0 match at halftime collapsed into what Schmid called the biggest embarrassment of his coaching career when the Red Devils unleashed six second-half goals against Sounders reserves.
“When we played Barcelona and Chelsea, at halftime those teams brought on a lot of young players and we were able to use our young players and still provide entertainment and it wasn’t a thrashing,” Hanauer said. “Obviously, that didn’t pan out (Wednesday) night.”
The Sounders haven’t been alone among Major League Soccer teams in their trouble against top-level European competition.
Over the first week of the World Football Challenge, Manchester United beat New England, 4-1; Real Madrid beat Los Angeles, 4-1; and Manchester City beat Vancouver, 2-1.
“There’s a very stark reality that we all have to face: To some degree you get what you pay for,” Hanauer said. “A $3 million payroll against a $300 million payroll, it’s going to go the way of the $300 million payroll a whole lot of the time. But I still think it’s good to continue to challenge ourselves. There are going to be some positives and there are going to be some negatives. The league overall, probably at a certain point after this World Football Challenge, will look at it again as well and say, ‘OK, is this a net positive or a net negative?’ ”
One clear positive is at the turnstiles. Those four games pairing MLS and European sides have drawn an average of 49,715 fans – topped by the Northwest-record crowd of 67,052 that turned out to watch the Red Devils at CenturyLink Field.
“As painful as it was for me, and as humiliating as it was on one level, we paid a lot of money to bring Manchester United in and to experience some of their greatness,” Hanauer said. “And we certainly got our money’s worth in that regard.”