The heart of the Sounders FC roster deserves to be kept together in 2012, general manager Adrian Hanauer said Monday.
At the start of this season, management said the core veterans might be broken up if they weren’t productive enough in the club’s third season. However, the 18-7-9 regular-season record has convinced Hanauer the club is sound regardless of what happens in the playoffs, which begin Saturday at Real Salt Lake.
“We’ve had enough success this year where I think it would be idiotic to suggest that if we got knocked out of the playoffs that we need to blow up the team and start over from scratch,” Hanauer said. “But when the season finally comes to an end we’ll go into the deep dive and figure out what went well, what didn’t.”
The roster includes 17 players who were with the Sounders during their inaugural 2009 season in Major League Soccer. Half of the 10 players selected in the expansion draft remain: Nate Jaqua, Jeff Parke, Tyson Wahl, James Riley and Brad Evans.
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Before the season began coach Sigi Schmid said a core group of players generally can expect no more than three chances and that this season could represent the final shot for this group.
That seemed especially ominous when the club opened the season 0-2-2.
However, the Sounders went 18-5-7 in MLS play thereafter, finishing with the second-best record in the league behind the Supporters’ Shield-winning L.A. Galaxy. Seattle also won a third straight U.S. Open Cup and has advanced to the quarterfinals of CONCACAF Champions League.
Asked Monday about a turning point in the season, Schmid offered several.
“Certainly the win at Real Salt Lake (May 28) was an important element. It showed us that we could win,” he said. “The win at Dallas (Aug. 20) when we maybe didn’t play our best game, but we sort of battled through and won that. The (CONCACAF) win at Monterrey (Aug. 23) was another one. … In Toronto (June 18), with the free kick by Fredy (Montero) late in the game. It was a game where we ended up playing against the odds a little bit – playing a man down – and then coming up with that free kick at the end. There was just a resiliency that you could see in the team, a composure and a maturity, that was greater than it had been in years past.”
Tickets went on sale Monday for the Sounders’ home playoff match against RSL, which will kick off at 7 p.m. Nov. 2. The regular-season capacity crowd of around 36,000 is expected and Hanauer said the club might be reluctant to expand beyond that even if all tickets are sold. “I think we lean toward wherever possible giving our season-ticket holders reason to be season-ticket holders,” he said. “I have very few doubts that demand will be greater than the current planned capacity, and maybe that’s an OK thing.” … Midfielder Mauro Rosales did light running at training Monday morning. He was scheduled to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test on his injured right knee in the afternoon. … MLS averaged a league record attendance of 17,872 at its matches this season. The previous record of 17,406 was set in the inaugural 1996 season. All three Northwest teams finished in the top third of the 18-team league: Seattle was first with a league-record 38,496, Vancouver was third with 20,406, and Portland sixth with 18,827.