If you followed the Sounders v Portland Timbers Cascadia Summit game at SoundersFC.com at half time you heard Chris Henderson talk about how a team that wants to compete for the Supporters Shield needs every point it can get. Saturday, after practice Henderson and I talked about competing for multiple trophies and how he helps build a roster to do so.
Dave Clark: Depth is really the only way to go for the Supporters Shield, but you have to prioritize sometimes how important is the Supporters Shield?
Chris Henderson: For me, its being able to have that pride as a player. I had that opportunity to win it in Miami in '01 and in 2000 with KC. We had that pride in being able to say that our team is the best team over 10 months. That's a big deal. Around the rest of the world you are the champion if you win the league. I think that pride in going out there and working so hard and consistent through the year, not just trying to hope for a lucky run in the month of the playoffs. It's almost like you have to focus on the season as one portion of it. When you get to the playoffs you focus on just that as its own little season. The same thing with CONCACAF Champions League in getting to the Group Stage and we want to improve on that too.
So each competition is taken as a separate goal, but they all have to go together. That's a challenge for the coaching staff to balance minutes. I look at our roster, and everyone else says "you guys have a good roster" but in the end it's how you perform on the field. How the guys gel and play well together. But I feel like all the way back we're getting good competition. We have competition for slots 25-30. There's good players who are going to sit on the bench every game.
DC: You brought through a lot of guys through trying to find who is going to be that 27,28, 29th guy with that is some of the decision making process for you and Adrian, with 80% of the team returning, do you think that continuity is part of what is demanded for a successful team?
Henderson: I've been able to do it both ways. In Colorado we didn't have that. But with the two teams that I've been on that won the Supporters Shield they were veteran teams with a big core of players with something to prove. I think you need it both ways. You need veterans who think I need to win now or I'll never win one, that hunger from the veteran.
You also need the young guys with the energy. I think there is a balance that as a team that you need. That's where I think Sigi does a good job. If you look at Sigi in LA or in Columbus, you notice he did it in his third year. This is his third year here. I think the way he's wanted to structure the team with a core of players that he can work with this is kind of the year. If it doesn't work we're going to have to break something up. I think giving the faith to Sigi to say "this is your third year let's make it work." I think one of the great things in working with Sigi, Adrian and the rest of the staff is that we are all working together. You don't see that sometimes in other clubs.
DC: Soccernomics talked about having that committee in charge of player acquisition and talent evaluation. Here you have Adrian, Sigi and yourself. From the outside it looks like no one person gets a final say. Is that a way to describe what you guys are? Or are you more a pyramid where one guy gets the final say?
Henderson: I think so. Its good to have a bunch of different minds who see different things. In the end though Sigi's the one who is picking the team that plays on a given day. In the end it is his decision as he's going to want certain things as we discuss. He wants specific characteristics. If we aren't giving him those guys. We're doing well so far, but we still want to go beyond where we are. We want to get better and better. If we win everything in one year we are still going to want to win more championships. There is always a higher place to go to. In the season you are going to have times when it doesn't go your way, but we want to be sure that we keep building. So when we have a bad result it doesn't mean much. I think that's where when you build a team you can win championships.
DC: Is this time in spring the only time you get to relax? The secondary window doesn't open for a while, college isn't playing, the PDL isn't playing.
Henderson: I should have thought of that. There's a little bit during pre-season, because we don't see the results every week, the points aren't there. You are just trying to grow, but you are always looking for players. If the window is closed you are looking for 6 months ahead. Even looking now for the next winter window because it's all opportunities in finding the right players and timing. If you're not ahead of the events with that player someone else is going to take them. You never really feel like you're stopped. If you do stop you're going to miss some players.