The first day of the Sounders' second season has arrived.
In the lead-up of the past few days, I spent about 15 minutes with Sounders majority owner Joe Roth, looking not only at the coming season but his hopes for the Sounders over the longer term as an ongoing soccer club.
Here's our story from today, previewing the game and the season.
And here are some other things Roth said that didn't get into that story (some answers trimmed to avoid redundancy with the story link above):
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What can you do for an encore?There are two sets of answers. One is having the team better. ... And we did add Blaise Nkufo who is coming in in midseason … and I think he’ll be really really helpful because we needed size and strength in front. We have an awfully nice fast team, and an awfully nice defensive team, but MLS is not La Liga, so you need to have some helf in there and that didn’t happen last year. I think Nkufo will help, and we’re still looking for others to help in that area.
The second is obviously how do we keep the magic going with the fans. I don’t know the answer. We’ll keep doing the march to the match and the golden scarf and keep in touch with our fans and the people in our council. It’s an ongoing social entity. You’ve got to hope that it’s a familial situation, that people enjoy being with each other, and enjoy the pride of having a team here, they enjoy how hard the team works and will continue to work and how hard ownership and management work to make the team better. And I hope it will carry on. It’s just hard to know.
On the encouraging signs of added seats this season and NW expansion for next season:I can certainly paint a good picture, but you have to work to that picture. This year instead of playing to 31,000 we’ll play to 35,500 and frankly I’m hoping by midseason we have to open another section and play to 38,000. There’s no question the rivalries with Portland and Vancouver starting next year will be great. And the league will start having those rivalries. Eventually Montreal will come in, so you’ll have a series of rivalries: Montreal-Toronto, Montreal-Vancouver, Vancouver-Toronto, Seattle-Portland, Philadelphia with New York. I think the teams that have started late like Toronto and us and Philly and the ones that are coming in have the advantage in that frankly the sport is more popular than it was 10 or 15 years ago. And you hope league-wide that all boats will rise. If seven or eight teams are really kicking it the way Seattle and Toronto are, it helps the other teams.
On his goal of making the Sounders an international brand:Our stated goal – of which there are many – always was to field an international team. So there’s no question that our goal as we’re building is to end up with an international team, a team that will travel and make an impact as a traveling team. Some of it we will see this year because we won U.S. Open Cup and so we are going to play CONCACAF (Champions League). The record of MLS teams in CONCACAF is miserable and hopefully we’ll go further. Again, it’s a process that requires excellence on the field. If somehow or other we got to the third round of CONCACAF and no one else has gotten past the second round, that’s going to help things out. Bringing Chelsea and Barcelona last year I think helps things out. The idea that the league is probably going to allow more designated players and probably allow us to go out and get more people is probably going to help it out. ... Our goals are be the community's team, be a consistent winner in MLS, get good enough so that we can play reasonably well internationally, and at the same time in the next couple of years to use our youth system to have a couple of local players to actually make the team.
Will the league allow more designated players?I think you can look in the future there will be multiple designated players.
Can MLS produce a consistent winner despite the tight salary cap? "I believe that the salary cap as a leveling factor helps us, because we’re willing to spend more money, spend more time, look more places. The fact that we got Fredy Montero out of Colombia at a time when he was the high scorer in their first division as a 19 or 20 year old, to me, that would never happen in football, that would never happen in basketball. It wouldn’t happen in baseball. So I think that we’re helped by the fact that we spend the money and the time and the manpower in Seattle to go out and find people. I don’t think anybody else in the league would have been able to figure out how to get Nkufo off of a first-division Dutch team and the Swiss international team. Ljungberg, that was a shot in the dark – an injured player it turned out just needed an operation to cure his ills. We have to keep doing stuff like that. The fact that you don’t have the crazy owners throwing $30 million at broken down players, I think that helps us.