Sounders to try to keep core intact

offseason: Adding ‘couple older veterans’ is in the mix, but GM Hanauer not sure it’s better than what’s here

DON RUIZ; Staff writerNovember 10, 2011 

Sounders FC’s early elimination from the MLS playoffs for the third straight season continues a trend that general manager Adrian Hanauer will consider when shaping his roster for next season.

“Maybe adding a couple of older veterans gives you more of that leadership,” Hanauer said Wednesday in a wide-ranging end-of-season interview. “But maybe during the regular season I think statistically older players are going to be injured a little bit more or be able to play a few less games. So, is that a good compromise? ... If we make that tradeoff and don’t get the points during the regular season, then maybe we lose the playoff home-field advantage, which theoretically should (help).”

Seattle went 18-7-9 in the MLS regular season and 27-11-10 in all competitions. So, Hanauer said he doesn’t want to overact to a season ended mostly due to a single result: the 3-0 playoff-opening loss at Salt Lake, which Hanauer calls the Sounders’ worst game of the season.

However, the cap on MLS payrolls makes it more difficult each year to keep together a young and talented roster such as the Sounders. So, this offseason could bring some changes of choice and some of something closer to necessity.

“We will make some moves,” Hanauer said. “We will do some things proactively. It won’t be the same team. But generally we should be able to keep the team together – the core. ... But on occasion, the way the system works, you do have to get rid of a highly compensated player or a young player that has a lot of potential that you can sell and use that money as allocation money.”

The Sounders know they are dropping the $250,000 salary paid this season to goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who has retired. However, Hanauer indicated the club is close to signing another veteran keeper who likely would command a similar contract.

Hanauer previously confirmed interest in 6-foot-5 Austrian goalkeeper Michael Gspurning, and he did not back away from that Wednesday.

“He’s a player we continue to have interest in,” Hanauer said. “We don’t have a contract finalized with any potential goalkeepers. But we have continued to be in contact, and he is a player who we like very much.”

On other topics, Hanauer said:

 • He is “highly confident” a new artificial surface will be installed at CenturyLink Field before next season.

 • Although the decision is not final, the Hawks Nest section in the stadium’s north end could be opened next season, which would increase capacity of the soccer configuration to around 38,500.

 • One friendly match against a big-name international opponent is planned for next season. Lower-profile friendlies also could be scheduled for the Sounders’ reserves.

 • Assembling the protected and unprotected lists for the Nov. 23 expansion draft will be painful. Hanauer said the club will weight the possibility of Montreal passing on talented players who are coming off of injuries.

 • He will meet with Keller next week and wants the Northwest icon to have a continuing role with the organization.

In overview, Hanauer called the Sounders’ third season “tremendous” ... but he acknowledged disappointment at the abrupt end.

“I’m a big believer in statistics, and statistically we were the second-best team in the league this year,” he said. “We were the best offensive team in the league. We were good defensively, but that’s an area we need to get a little bit better. We won another (U.S. Open Cup and) qualified for Champions League quarterfinals – which was a very important goal of ours. Came up short in the playoffs. So, not completely satisfied, but my gut tells me there are 15 or 16 other teams that would gladly trade with us.”

ADDED TIME

Los Angeles’ Omar Gonzalez was named MLS defensive player of the year on Wednesday. ... Commissioner Don Garber will hold a state-of-the-league press conference today, and will announce the MLS Best XI honorees.

Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com Twitter: @donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer

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