As Trialists continue to trickle into town (two new ones today - Gianfranco Di Julio VEN and Cordell Cato T&T) I had the opportunity to catch up with Adrian Hanauer regarding the club's connections with Tanzania (including a confirmation of work to trial Mrisho Ngassa of Azam FC h/t MLS-Rumors). We start off conversing about the constant trialists, rumors that connect to major stars and the work that Seattle is doing to find new talent.
First a look Di Julio and Cato. Gianfranco Di Julio is an Italian born player who has youth national appearances for Venezuela. The dedicated soccer fan will know him as a center mid with Deportivo Petare/Italia in this past Copa Libertadores. The Caracas based club was founded by Italian immigrants, and spent time in the Fall season at the top third of the table. The club lost in the First Round of the Copa 1:2 on aggregate. He started in the the home leg. Seattle has signed several other players from South America in the past, but this would be their first from Venezuela (I wonder if he is a Mariners fan?).
Cordell Cato is another in the mold of Myron Samuel. A young, speedy Caribbean player with some international competitive experience who would be a project.
One of his shot attempts is called the worst of the season . Not Cato. But he's more than that, or he wouldn't be here. His club, San Juan Jabloteh, was in the CCL recently making the last two, including a Group Stage performance after beating San Fransisco FC of Panama (Seattle Sounders prelim opponent this year.
SaH: Every two or three days you are connected to another name. You have trialists coming through with two or three for a week at a time. As you continue to explore talent how do you balance keeping the names out of the media and yet still the central offices need to know and other teams will find out?
Adrian Hanauer: That's a great question, and we grapple with it every day and we grapple with it relative to our overall media exposure. We want media exposure for our club and to build the game here and nationally. At the same time we don't want to compromise any sort of competitive advantage that we might have. Whether you call it gamesmanship or being evasive towards the media at times that's just the reality of what we are going to do. If we feel like it protects us from compromising information. In that regard you'll probably notice that when names are brought up I'll probably have a similar comment because if I comment completely differently on one and then we end up signing that player now everyone knows that when I comment like that ...
SaH: [interrupting] We parse your language, we do that? [chuckles]
SaH: Are there advantages to the Sounders being one of those teams that are connected to the big names like LA, Red Bull, Seattle in that next tier?
Hanauer: It can also be a negative. It takes time to manage some of those rumors. We take calls [nodding to the gathered media], and we get agents who call, we get scouts who call. Part of it is spending time that we could be focusing on that player that is a real alternative, instead focusing on a player that we might be able to get. But, it is also what makes sports exciting and interesting. We all understand we are in show business, as well as sports. If it brings more eyeballs to websites, to the newspapers, butts to the seats and eyeballs to television than I guess that's the positive side of it.
SaH: You have a relationship with a club in Tanzania (African Lyon), advertising in stadium with Tanzania, talk about what you see about the future there and why you are developing that relationship.
Hanauer: That relationship started with the USL team in 2005 when we took a version of the team that won the Championship and built relationships in Tanzania. Fast forward to the MLS team and we kept those relationships alive. [I've] always thought that, and wanted to create a pipeline from Africa. West Africa is in our opinion very saturated. A lot of good players come out of West Africa, North Africa, not so much out of East Africa. This seemed like a way to potentially build towards being a bigger fish in a small pond in East Africa than in West Africa. We need to walk before we run, but over time we would like to develop that relationship into something more robust and structured and as a potential path for some players to make it to the United States.
There's a bigger component to it as well. We're also working on a global health initiative in Tanzania. And again sort of three separate components, also working with Tanzanian tourism to see if we can help tourism from the Pacific Northwest to Tanzania. None of those three are locked contractually, it is something that we are taking at the right pace to develop.
SaH: When do you think we might see a player or two over here from Tanzania?
Hanauer: The one thing that we are working hard to finalize is bringing a player from Azam. One of the top teams, I think they finished third in the table this past year. They have a player by the name of Ngassa who maybe the best player in Tanzania today, one of the best players. Hopefully we are able to bring him over in the next couple of weeks, take a look at him. It will coincide with when Manchester United is in town and if all goes well, and he does well maybe we can get him in that game. It builds exposure with Tanzanian soccer. Maybe a Reserve game [depending on timing of paperwork].
Again our hope is that maybe we can export some development knowledge, technology, training techniques, sports science, equipment, and hopefully that increases the rate of development. With this one particular club that we are hoping to partnership with, African Lyons. If we establish contractually a true pipeline relationship to Sounders FC it is easier for them to recruit within the region as well. So young players may want to come play for their youth team because they see it as a path to being seen by an MLS team.
Hopefully it is one of those win-win relationships that we can continue to work on.
Ngasa is not yet finalized, but it is the team's intention to work through the layers of paperwork - the passports, visas, league and FIFA paperwork as well. Just over two years ago Ngassa was invited to trial with West Ham United. In 2009 East African club championship scored 5 goals, including a hat-trick against Eritrea. He is slight, fast and a scorer from the right wing.