Just because Sounders FC leads Major League Soccer in attendance doesn’t mean it leads in revenue, general manager Adrian Hanauer said Tuesday.
Hanauer acknowledged that the club leads in ticket revenues but would say only that it ranks among the top one-third of MLS in total revenue.
However, as the franchise begins preparations for its fifth MLS season, Hanauer said that devoting more money for difference-making players will be considered.
“We still want to run a rational business and a business that’s sustainable,” he said. “But we do think that there’s an opportunity to maybe push the envelope a little bit. Again, that doesn’t mean we will. It only means that we’ll make changes that we think will make our team better clearly.”
Hanauer’s remarks came as he and coach Sigi Schmid held an end-of-season press conference. The 53-minute session at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila came four days before Houston and Los Angeles meet in MLS Cup. The financial questions arose because the defending champion Galaxy are led by designated players Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and David Beckham, who have outperformed Seattle’s lower-priced DPs Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and Christian Tiffert.
“The money is really a side issue of the whole thing,” Schmid said. “The situation is … Robbie Keane’s been captain of Ireland, Beckham’s been captain of England, Donovan’s been captain of the U.S. Between those three guys when you add it up, it’s almost 400 caps. That’s a huge amount of experience. That’s a huge amount of leadership. They’re not always doing it, but when you’re all pulling the rope in the same direction, they get up a pretty good head of steam, and it’s easy for the other guys to follow. And so we don’t have that same level of maybe experience and leadership in our DPs.”
Hanauer generally agreed, although from his side of things, money is an increasingly crucial issue.
“We sit here today in certainly a very cap-constrained situation,” he said. “So we’ve got our work cut out for us in terms of who we’re able to bring back. … Something’s got to give. Either we need to sell a player and get allocation money, we need to renegotiate contracts, we need to have one less DP.”
Hanauer also said that for all of the media and fans pointing to the Galaxy’s star-driven model, that isn’t the only way to succeed.
“I’ll point out that when San Jose, Kansas City win their respective conferences, everyone anoints them the top two teams in MLS, and everyone wants to duplicate their teams,” he said. “And then they’re eliminated in the first round of the playoffs and now everyone is scrambling to figure out who the team they want to emulate is. Is it Houston or is it LA — because they both made MLS Cup … (but there couldn’t be more) different formulas in how you put together a winning team.”
Regardless, Hanauer and Schmid indicated little interest in following any path but the one decided on before the 2009 expansion season.
“From Day One we’ve said we want to play attacking, creative, offensive, goal-scoring soccer, and I think we’ve done that” Hanauer said. “Just to be clear: We don’t want to be L.A. We just don’t.”
Hanauer and Schmid looked back on the 2012 season with ambivalence. They cited progress in advancing to the Western Conference final, but disappointment in failing to win a trophy and slipping to 56 points in the standings after reaching 63 the season before.
Neither outlined a single overriding area for improvement for the coming season. Schmid mentioned adding younger outside backs and depth at midfield. Hanauer confirmed the club will exercise its option on goals-leader Eddie Johnson next season without bumping him up to DP status.
They indicated a general interest in keeping the core group together, if the salary cap issues allow it.
“There’s still growth that’s there,” Schmid said. “There’s still maturity that’s taking place. There’s leadership that’s taking place in the locker room that wasn’t there last year and for sure wasn’t there two or three years ago. … Obviously, there’s still another level for us to go, but I think we’re in view of the summit.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer