In November of 2007 a group of investors were awarded a Seattle franchise in Major League Soccer. 32 months later I’ve got a few grades to pass out to this newest Seattle professional sports team.
What do other fans think? Check out their grades at www.SeattleSoccerTalk.com
Community outreach : A
Sounders FC are writing the Major League Soccer book on how to reach out to a saavy soccer community and get their attention. Almost everything they have tried has worked well, from the Scarf Seattle campaign, to the Give Us Your Full 90 slogan, to picking Wesley School for Girls as an advertising firm. Then there was the contract signed with KING / KONG to get every match on live local TV. The club website is also built with fan interaction in mind.
Comments: Sounders FC is anxious to please. Sounders FC excels in this area above others in his/her class. Sounders FC is now helping teach others in the class.
The Business of Soccer: B+
The Sounders are managing a great soccer business. That’s both the good and the bad of it. There has been an disconcerting tendancy by the club to over-connect grass roots traditions with business partners. The March to the Match has been sponsored in the past. Recently Gowalla and Seattle Bank were linked to Sounders FC pub crawls. It’s one thing to watch a match at “Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field,” now you can crawl Gowalla-style before hand. Some would call it geniu$. I call it overkill.
Comments: Sounders FC is not apologetic for his/her “Corporate FC” nickname. Sounders FC need to quit using money as toilet paper, as it makes the other students in the league jealous. Sounders FC is a trendsetter in class, what he/she wears can be seen on others all over downtown by the next week.
Match Day: A-
I have more praise than complaints here. Going to Sounders FC matches remains one of the best sporting activities you can do around these parts. The club needs to drop the confetti (that blue and green tinsel is ending up in Puget Sound, which can’t be good.) The Golden Scarf Ceremony needs yet another overhaul. The all-you-can-eat / drink sections need coffee. Right now the tickets are priced right for those who bought them on day one. When the three-year season ticket price freeze ends after 2011, the club had better be better, and not raise the price roof on its diehards.
Comments: Sounders FC adds to the classroom atmosphere, but has a tendancy to want to put on a show rather than let soccer sell itself. Sounders FC sometimes litters and doesn’t clean up afterwards. Sounders FC needs to turn down his / her Ipod during class.
On the Pitch: B-
If it weren’t for the United States Open Cup win, I’d likely give the club a C+. That was a great accomplishment. So was making the playoffs in season one. However, the home form at Qwest has been puzzling since last May, and the lack of home goals is glaring. Things aren’t going well so far in 2010 and it is grating on fans like me who talked all off season about the fact we needed an upgraded roster. After almost no moves Blaise Nkufo comes in this July with ridiculous expectations on his Swiss shoulders.
It would be easier to be forgiving of the Sounders on the pitch if they hadn’t set the bar high for themselves, hadn’t spent big bucks on a designated player (Ljungberg), hadn’t bought an expensive goalkeeper (Keller), hadn’t wooed a famed head coach away from Columbus after he won the double there. The expectations are rightly high, and they have not been met often enough in these 32 months.
I am still waiting for Ljungerg and Montero to get on the same page. Last year’s strength (defense and goalkeeping) is this year’s aging concern (Keller, Marshall). Schmid has tried more more formations than the Cheerios of “Glee.”
Comments: Sounders FC frequently comes to class unprepared. Freddie Ljungberg needs to follow teacher directions without complaining. Sounders FC does well when he/she focuses on the task at-hand.
Public Relations & Keeping Promises: B–
Maybe most Sounders fans feel like they are being treated like Kings. Some however, are feeling a bit more like jesters. The joke’s on them after Drew Carey’s ballyhooed “Democracy in Sports” has crumbled away even after one season. Sounders FC quietly flushed voters responsibilities down the toilet with a whispered final fan gathering at the end of 2009. In 2010 fans have been voting on Golden Scarf candidates. Of course, that is online and anyone can vote. The people put in charge of this part of the Sounders thrust have mishandled things from the very start. It was a marketing ploy, pure and simple, and until the Sounders allow it to be real, it won’t be. Until they come through and allow fans to vote on things that actually matter to the club, and to them, the farce will go on.
Comments: Sounders FC is trying to practice good citizenship habits, but has been inconsistent with this. He / she needs to remember that fan promises must be kept not only ‘at certain times.’ Sounders FC is not always cooperative with others, and needs to think through his / her options before taking action.
Adrian Hanauer spoke as the club was created about how the personal characteristics of the people he would hire to be Sounders in the front office would be extra important in the process. Honesty, loyalty, integrity…that kind of thing. 32 months later we have been through one quickly swept under the rug ‘scandal’ with Chris Henderson tinkering with Sigi Schmid, or vice versa, before his contract at Columbus was over. The Sounders denied wrong-doing but paid a fine to the league. An inside source told me a few months back that one of the owners bragged about ‘getting Sigi’ ahead of time.
Nate Jaqua and Fredy Montero were both involved in sexual misconduct allegations that were later dropped or settled.
The Sounders players have been unable for a long time now to reward their huge home crowds with consistent, dynamic, hard efforts at Qwest Field. Ljungerberg was called out by Keller and Schmid. Hanauer called out the entire club and gave a ‘refund’ to season ticket holders.
I admire Hanauer’s goal to hire only the best, only the strongest, only the ones who will fight for Seattle. So far though we don’t have enough of those guys on the pitch.
Blaise Nkufo looks like a real find in the character department. He’s got a real chance to show the others what a professional soccer player looks like.
Comments: See also Public relations and Keeping promises. I would like to see Sounders FC set a goal to grow in this area next year. While Sounders FC is still fairly mature for a two-year old, there is great room for improvement and personal growth.
Fan intangibles: C-
Where it all matters most is on the pitch, and I am speaking just for myself when I say the current cast of characters wearing rave green don’t get my Seattle juices flowing. Other than Kasey Keller, we’ve got a few guys who I would love to adopt as locals (Alonso, Hurtado) and a whole bunch of them who I have almost no connection with at all.
I wonder what happened on the way from USL to MLS? How did guys like assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, who could have stamped a Seattle mark on this roster, on this club, on its playing style, get pushed to the background in favor of a guy like Sigi Schmid? Was it a desire to win early that now has been found to be ill-advised?
Would I even be talking about this if we were winning this year?
I often wonder why the current Sounders don’t feel like “us” to me. Is it just my fondness of the USL side and its roster that was more accessible and had more hometowners?
Has anyone else sold their match tickets off more times already this year than all of last year?
If I could adequately describe why my Sounders buzz is down to about a four on a one-to-ten scale, then I’d be the first to also address the issue of getting it back up to 8-9-10 where it belongs. Ideas? Advice?
2010 needs to be a whopper of a second half, doesn’t it?