Before they sent the Timbers home empty-handed on Sunday, Sounders FC hosted a little town hall event at their new space, The Ninety. Fans got a chance to hear Adrian Hanauer, Merritt Paulson, and Henry Nguyen (one of LAFC's owners) chat about rivalry, the state of the league, and US Soccer, with a Q&A session thrown in at the end. Most of the resulting half-hour talk was fairly run-of-the-mill, but it certainly wasn't without its highlights:
All three owners unsurprisingly talked up the Portland/Seattle rivalry as the best in the league, and Nguyen even went as far as saying "it will be up there with City and United soon." Paulson, for his part, feels "lucky to be a part of" what he described as one of the few true rivalries in Major League Soccer and one of the best in the world.
But then Paulson and Hanauer ruined our hateful narrative with a love-fest of words. First, from Hanauer:
"In an hour we won't be able to be in the same room together. But on the business side, organizationally, we work together really well on best practices, how we continue to grow the rivalry, but also just grow soccer in the United States."
Then the owner of the team from Oregon turned things up another notch:
"I've got generally good relationships across the ownership group, but as it stands I'd say my best friend in the ownership group is Adrian."
Paulson noted that he and Hanauer even agree on which referee is the worst in MLS (but wouldn't name names, unfortunately).
Beef with Klinsmann:
A question from the crowd invited Paulson to chime in on Jordan Morris' situation and the disagreements between MLS Commissioner Don Garber and USMNT Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. At first Paulson dodged the question a bit, but Hanauer actually stepped up to the plate to air his thoughts:
"I do think that Jurgen has a short term view of this. There's nothing wrong with that, he's the head coach of the US National Team, he's paid to win tournaments, that's just the reality of it. The problem that I have is that for me personally, I may be wrong, but I think the best way for the US National Team to be completely integrated and to have the most success over the course of time is for US soccer to be unequivocally behind Major League Soccer and be trying to turn it into one of the great leagues in the world. And if all of those players want to stay in MLS, if we're completely in alignment, that is the best for US Soccer in my opinion."
Paulson then got a little more specific:
"Hypothetically speaking, if somebody who is the head coach of the US Soccer team, or somebody who worked with them, or anyone within the US Soccer Federation was in Jordan Morris' ear telling him to go to Europe, Seattle Sounders fans should have a big, big problem with that. They should have a big problem with that. Something is broken with that. It's a hypothetical! But that's not a good situation."
LAFC and the Chivas USA academy:
An audience member asked Nguyen why the LAFC organization hadn't absorbed Chivas USA's academy. Nguyen made one thing very clear: LAFC wants nothing to do with the legacy of Chivas USA - nothing at all - even if it means missing out on some young players. Though he did apologize to the Sounders and Timbers for potentially funneling more talent into LA Galaxy's academy pool.
The crowd was polite overall to Paulson, with just a smattering of boos thrown in here and there. But one fan outside the window (and in view of the camera) engaged in some creative Merritt-trolling. You may recall that Paulson tweeted out (and then deleted) a picture last year of his mangled finger after being bitten by an alligator. Well, someone didn't want him to forget it. The interruption prompted a "What the hell is that?" from Adrian Hanauer, and Paulson took the joke pretty well, offering some mock fear and a brief explanation to the crowd: