Sounders FC

For Sounders, this year’s friendlies may be difficult to top

Sounders FC wants to deliver non-league games in 2010 that match the standard set this season.

That won’t be easy, because the Sounders brought in FA Cup champion Chelsea last month, UEFA Champions League champion FC Barcelona on Wednesday and will play host to MLS Cup on Nov. 22.

“Obviously, we’ve got a lot of work to do in the offseason,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said this week. “But we’re 100 percent committed to delivering on fans’ expectations. We’re not exactly sure how we’re going to do it, but we’re going to have to figure it out.”

Hanauer said he already has some ideas. He isn’t ready to share them, but he assumes fans might be thinking along the same lines since there is a limited number of big fish in the international pool.

“When you talk about superclubs, the list is relatively short,” he said. “It’s not like there are 50 clubs in the world that we’re going to be able to go after. But, yeah, we have some in mind. And there are other ways to deliver exciting opportunities to the market, not necessarily the superclubs.”

That latter comment could mean something like including meaningful matches as part of the season package: Superliga or CONCACAF Champions League matches, for example, if Seattle qualifies. The MLS All-Star Game is out, though, because the 2010 game recently was awarded to Houston.

Hanauer also said the organization hasn’t yet decided if it wants to invite a prestigious club from another part of the world next season after drawing from the English and Spanish leagues this season.

However, there’s not much room to improve quantitatively on the success of this season’s friendlies. The Chelsea game was almost a sellout with a crowd of 65,289, and Barca’s visit topped that with a sellout of 66,848.

That was a record-setting crowd for a soccer match in the state of Washington. And it impressed even the visitors, whose home stadium, Camp Nou, is the largest in Europe at a capacity of 98,772.

“It was amazing,” Barcelona star Thierry Henry said. “It really reminded me of a crowd in Europe. They were all cheering the Sounders, and rightly so. It was tremendous and a great atmosphere. They made it really difficult for us in the first half.”

The Sounders were outscored 6-0 over 180 minutes against Chelsea and Barcelona. They gave up two goals to Chelsea in a relatively competitive match, then allowed four goals to a dominant Barca.

“I hope (our fans didn’t) walk away disappointed,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said Wednesday. “I hope they realize they got to watch a great team. … Some kids got to see (Lionel) Messi and Henry. I hope our fans are proud of the Sounders and realize what we’re doing here by bringing teams of that caliber here to play. That’s not something everybody gets to do.”

Seattle returns to league play Saturday at Real Salt Lake.

Montero on the move

Sounders leading scorer Fredy Montero will join the Colombian national team for its Aug. 12 game against Venezuela at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. However, he won’t miss Sounders games. He will leave after the RSL game and then return in time for the Aug. 15 game at Los Angeles.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com

blogs.thenewstribune.com/soccer

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