Seattle Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer admitted to being humiliated by Wednesday's 7-0 loss to Manchester United and vowed a philosophical change to keep something like that from happening again. (Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
Adrian Hanauer has been around soccer most of his life. Never has he had to endure something quite like the Seattle Sounders 7-0 pasting at the hands of Manchester United. He did not enjoy that part, even admitting to being "humiliated," and does not intend to allow it to happen again.
In talking to him just about 24 hours after the loss -- plenty of time to think it over and long enough to have a pretty astute sense of the public reaction -- he stopped well short of promising to forgo future midseason exhibitions, but he did promise a different attitude if the team does play them.
"We wanted to reward the players and even Sir Alex Ferguson after the game told us it was good for the lads, that they’ll never have another chance to play against Manchester United," Hanauer said. "But it's not our responsibility to give them that chance. It is our responsibility to put on a good show for the nearly 70,000 fans that came to see us. We let people down for the final 45 minutes.
"Even though we’ve gotten away with it in the past, a new philosophy starts now. We’re going to make some substitutions, but it won't just be rewarding guys for being on the team."
Personally, I'd be happy if this marked the end of the Sounders playing midseason friendlies. But I'm pretty sure that when Hanauer meets with the rest of Sounders management, they aren't going to feel the same way. When more than 67,000 people show up to see your team play, you usually aren't inclined to question what brought them there. You're more likely to figure out how to get them back.
To some degree, the veil on friendlies has been lifted. Wednesday's dismantling showcased what can happen when a far superior team faces off against one that isn't necessarily looking at it as a competitive match. It can get ugly. Hanauer knows that if people are going to keep coming back for these friendlies, the Sounders can't just be someone's patsy.
"I feel like there were some positives to take from the evening," Hanauer said. "The fans, the event, the atmosphere, Manchester United for most of the game and our team for 45 minutes was good. We miscalculated a little bit. We probably weren’t as focused on competing as we should have been for the second half and we got punished for that."
If there's one thing that does give me hope, it's that I really doubt this desire to put on a good show will come at the expense of being competitive in real competitions. As much as Hanauer and Co. may have been embarrassed by Wednesday's outcome, they know the best way to salve their wounds is by winning real matches in real competitions. This organization likes winning above all else. To doubt that is to be blind. If it happens to cross over into a desire to win even meaningless friendlies (as long as it's only one a year), I think I can live with that.