The absence of Blaise Nkufo means the Sounders have roster and cap space. Are they going to add someone?
There are two deadlines coming up for the roster. The first is the more well-known summer transfer window that shuts on August 14th. The second is the playoff roster eligibility deadline, or more simply the MLS trade deadline. That ends on September 15th. Both will, and should lead to roster changes for the Seattle Sounders according the General Manager and Minority Owner Adrian Hanauer in our chat today.
Trades seem a bit more common now, and even Supporters Shield contenders are acquiring pieces from within as FC Dallas just added Maicon Santos from Toronto FC for Eric Avila. The New England Revolution added a DP. Hanauer will explore both options, and is currently searching for the right fit. We discuss that, the ability to keep/bring back Americans in MLS and the complexities of trading in a tight salary cap. He isn't willing to give you a percentage chance of adding talent though.
Adrian Hanauer: I'm not a percentage guy when it comes to these things, but definitely we are still working on things. I'd still anticipate that our roster will look differently when the transfer window closes. But these deals, especially when you are dealing with South American negotiations/agents, European negotiations/agents, other clubs they can be very complex and time consuming. We're still working and we're hopeful.
SaH: With past Designated Players or other high salary players that have been brought in some teams are now looking at short term 6 month adds and figuring out where it goes after that, maybe a loan and then something different. Do you look for the next 6 months, for 12, for 18, 24?
Hanauer: In general our strategy we're going to aim for younger players who are going to be with us for a number of years. That said I actually like the 6 month strategy with an option, or 12 months with an option, 18 with one. Which creates some incentive for the player to come in and perform. That's one of the challenges that we in the League are trying to get our arms around - how do you get the right player who has the right set of motivations coming into our league. How do you make sure that a player who is done with international play, he's won everything in Europe or South America, who's played for big clubs; how do you make sure that when he comes to MLS he is adequately incented and motivated to be a great guy for the team and win championships for your club. That's something that we're all going through and one of the interesting ways to get your arms around that a little bit is a loan with an option. Not to say that's where we're headed but I as I thought it through I like that strategy as well.
SaH: We had talked once about Americans returning, and we haven't seen that influx during this transfer window. Several of the younger players have found clubs, where a guy like Freddy Adu is still out there. Do you think the League needs to provide some incentive to bring some Americans back? Preston Zimmerman was just talking about how they build a wall basically and try to keep every German in Germany.
Hanauer: Whether it is incentive for bringing players back, or whether it's tools to keep Americans here into their second and third contracts so a guy like Stuart Holden doesn't get away. Yura Mossissyan, Ricardo Clark those guys. And there's another crop coming behind them. Some of the salary cap management challenges - I don't want to say they've prohibited us from keeping those players - but they make it challenging.
I sit on the competition committee and those are some of the conversations we have. How do we evolve our youth system and sure that some of our young players aren't stolen from under our noses, which is happening. How do we retain our good, young American players. How do we improve our hit rate on bringing foreign players and make the integration system better? How do we improve our Designated Player hit rate and make sure that we're also increasing butts in seats and TV ratings through some of those Designated Player acquisitions? Do we bring US National Team players back, or other quality Americans?
It's part of a big, overall strategy aimed towards making this one of the top leagues in the world in the next 10 years. It is obviously highly complicated and ultimately if everyone was willing to spend 100 Million Dollars a year on payroll it would be a lot easier. But we have a business that has a certain amount of revenue and we're trying to improve our quality commensurate with how we are improving our business overall.
SaH: The last question is the trade deadline [September 15th] is another way to improve the club. Plenty of teams have swapped talent and trying to rebuild on the fly within the League.
Hanauer: Certainly. Concurrent with our discussions abroad are discussions within our league. That's an on-going thing, that probably ramps up as you approach the trade deadline.
SaH: From draft day until September 15th?
SaH: When you look at that, is it about bringing in talent or freeing up cap space?
Hanauer: We're open to all of it it. One of the things you find in our league is that literally every day we're on the phone with if not five, multiple teams, and they're making offers for our talent and we're making offers for their talent. Sometimes they're offering a player, or a draft choice, allocation money. Sometimes we're doing the same. But you also see how few transactions get done because every body is looking for something that they perceive as more value for something they perceive as lesser value.
Turns out the other team sees it that way as well and they don't want to give up higher value for lesser value. It's a challenge to do transactions in our league. Again with the way the cap works, most teams are managing so close to their cap that it's almost impossible to move a guy that's making 300 thousand dollars for a guy that's making 100 thousand dollars. You have to bring as much cap space on as your are moving off. Again those usually don't match.