Sounders majority owner Joe Roth met with members of the local media over the weekend, looking back and ahead at the Sounders and MLS in general.
Here's some of what he had to say:
On this season: It’s been a fantastic year. Last year at this meeting I apologized, and we get rid of six guys and brought in different guys. They weren’t necessarily better, but they gelled better. Winning the open cup was very cool and winning the Supporters Shield: I’m old-fashioned. In every country in the world except the United States that means we won – because nobody else has playoffs. It’s been a really, really good season. It’s been fun watching Dempsey and Oba kind of gel. It’s been fun watching the back line finally coming together, which has been difficult. I think picking up Pineda was a terrific thing. I think picking up Chad Marshall was probably the most important thing we did off-season: He really anchors the defense. So, yeah, it’s been a great season.
On living in LA and facing the Galaxy: Nobody knows in Los Angeles that I have a life in Seattle: Nobody. That’s just the way it is, so nobody gives me a hard time. I try to give Bruce a hard time.
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On winning Supporters' Shield: It’s right up there. If we won the Cup – which is again the American version – it would feel like “Alice in Wonderland” or “Maleficent” or something like that.
On the decision about a year ago to retain coach Sigi Schmid: It was close. I called Sigi down to Los Angeles with Adrian. It was after we won one of the last 10 games and kind of ankled our way into the play-in game and lost to Portland. I was upset. And we sat for a couple of hours. And I sat there and I thought, ‘You know, I could fire this guy, who I think is one of the two best coaches in the league. But he’s won the championship in LA and Columbus. So I’ve either got to fire him or fire the players.’ So I fired the players – because obviously they just weren’t gelling, particularly at the end of the season.
More on that conversation: I couldn’t believe we had only won one of the last 10 games. I had seen what had happened inside the locker room, the dissension between some of the guys. I just didn’t want it to happen again and I wanted him to explain how it did happen. When those things happen they’re unexplainable, actually. It just became a thing of foreign coaches when they come in have a horrible time because of all the specific MLS rules. It just take years to get it. And Sigi is really a great coach – a very strategic coach and a very good defensive coach. I think if five or six players on your team who play are looking to themselves, I don’t care who you are, you’re not going to get them to play the way you want.
On remaining happy with Schmid even if season ends short of MLS Cup: Absolutely. I’m a little bit of a realist. There are 19 teams in the league and only one can be the champion. We’ve already won two championships. And the team we’re playing in the next round is awfully good and has been playing awfully well, and they’re got a great player who seems to be on a mission to make his last year count, so it will be a very difficult (series). When we played them a couple of weeks ago, we tied them down there and we beat them up here; but they didn’t have Keane and they didn’t have Omar. So it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be exciting.
On wanting a team with more grit: That’s exactly what we did. We went after Barrett, who is exactly that guy. Martins is that guy. We went after Pineda, who’s that guy. So right now I feel like we’ve got a team that will go out there and run through the wall. That wasn’t the case last eyar.
On Clint Dempsey so far: I’m happy with him. He’s a great team player. He missed nine games this year because of all the World Cup stuff. He’s tough guy. He’s a working-class guy like those other guys, and I think only good things are going to happen. He’s still at peak form.
On the league and team looking ahead: The thing to watch for the league is that it doesn’t expand too quickly. There’s an awful lot of cities that want to get into the game. The attrition of the players, and making those cities work, that’s my concern on a league basis. On a team basis, it’s just keep trying to get better. Find the guy. I got the call on Dempsey from the commissioner, and ‘Yeah, let’s go. Let’s do it,’ because I felt like we were getting static. That’s a way to push it. Besides, I always wanted him, because attitudinally he was the right kind of player. I always thought we should have a working-class team, and I thought last year we had a few too many dancers. This year we have a much more solid team.… I think this is our best team in the six years. I think it’s incredible that we’ve made the playoffs all six years. It’s been a time when the Sounders and the Galaxy and Salt Lake have all kind of been rotating around and it would be nice to see if we can burst through.
That's only about half the interview. I'll try to post the rest within 24 hours.