Ask the GM: Elliott on stadium, players
This is the first of what will be a monthly Q & A with FC Dallas President and General Manager Greg Elliott. Fans wishing to submit questions can do so by clicking here or by clicking on the link below. When submitting a question, please be sure to include your name and hometown. Questions not answered online will be answered individually.
Today, Elliott discusses a wide array of issues, including an update on FCD player acquisitions, the transfer of Cory Gibbs, the FS&EC stadium progress and the debut of the new team kit.
FCdallas.net: What is your take on how the delayed opening of the Frisco Soccer & Entertainment Center will affect FC Dallas?
GE: "This is obviously not an ideal situation for anyone associated with our organization, most notably our fans and our sponsors. That stated, it was the right decision to make because I believe that up to 80 percent of the fans who will come to the Frisco stadium will be either first-time soccer spectators and/or first-time FC Dallas fans. Once we knew that there was no possibility of have the stadium ready - with the many amenities we are promising in place - by June 11, we knew that we had to delay the opening to a date when these features would be ready. First impressions mean everything. This especially holds true with a crowd of first-time customers. We conferred with our construction personnel and determined that August 6 would be the date we would move to based on their feedback to our list of necessary available amenities.
"In addition to being the right decision, I believe it was a brave decision by Hunt Sports Group as our bottom line will take a major hit. This is due, in large part, to the loss of sponsorship revenue we will incur due to pro-ration of all of our current deals and the significant drop in gate revenue we'll likely experience at the Cotton Bowl. Bottom line, HSG put aside the short-term financial ramifications and did the right thing."
FCdallas.net: What are you saying to the people that have already bought tickets?
GE: "We are calling everyone individually to tell them that our number one priority is their customer satisfaction. In most cases, there is a value differential between what they purchased and what we are delivering. The next step is simple: what do we have to do to make it right for each customer? Essentially, our customers will have three options: they can opt-in for a reserved seat Cotton Bowl package that will come complete with free parking and other amenities; they can accrue a credit to be applied to 2005 MLS Cup tickets, 2005 FCD parking or playoff tickets; or they can simply ask for a balance refund."
FCdallas.net: You mentioned the Cotton Bowl. Once you knew that the FS&EC was going to be delayed, did you consider playing at any other venues, and what are your plans to sell tickets there for the first six matches?
GE: "Once a stadium opening delay was deemed necessary, there was never any consideration to play anywhere other than the Cotton Bowl.
"Every ticket for all six Cotton Bowl matches will be priced at $10. This is $2 per ticket less than our lowest GA price last year. While we will make all tickets general admission, we will arrange for all current 2005 FCD full-season ticket holders to have a reserved seat in best location available.
"We will also sell a six-match Cotton Bowl mini-plan, and advertise the matches as part of our overall marketing effort. Admittedly, however, we will be applying the super-majority of our marketing resources against selling season tickets for the new stadium in Frisco.
"Another thing I will say is that some of the Cotton Bowl match-ups are pretty intriguing: Chicago in the opener; Jason Kreis' (Real Salt Lake) and Brad Davis' (San Jose) returns to Dallas; and the first-ever visit by CD Chivas USA."
FCdallas.net: Any silver lining to the stadium delay?
GE: "Certainly the fact that the team will not have to spend two consecutive months, what would have amounted to 11 straight matches, on the road. Everyone on the squad was prepared to face the challenge, but we'll now have a much more balanced schedule."The other thing I would like to say is that August 6 will be here before we know it. At that time, we will have something that many of the other teams in MLS won't have and would knock themselves out to get. I'm not saying the delay is not without consequence, but you have to keep things in perspective."
FCdallas.net: Could you update us on the progress of the deal for the naming rights to the Frisco Soccer & Entertainment Center?
GE: "We have a significant naming rights dialogue ongoing with at least three companies. Until you shake hands and sign on the dotted line, there obviously is still a ways to go before we have a finalized deal, but I'm very hopeful that in the next 30 days we will have something tangible regarding naming rights. It's something that we are pursuing very aggressively and we're pleased to know that there are companies that are very serious about pursuing this as well."
FCdallas.net: When do you expect to have an unveiling of the new uniforms FC Dallas will don next year?
GE: "We hoped to do something with the uniform unveiling in February when the team had first gathered for training. However, working together with our new partner - adidas - we have decided that given the complexity and scope of this task, it would be better if we waited a bit longer before we unveiled the new kits. Our vision remains to have the team and coaching staff present for the event and by delaying the unveiling, the team will be closer to an opening day roster and retail product availability would be much stronger."
"Anyway, we're now looking at the possibility of doing something when the team returns from Spain. That being said, we hope for the unveiling to be sometime in the mid- to late-March timeframe."
FCdallas.net: Where is the process with the player from Ecuador at, as of today (Friday, Feb. 11)?
GE: "We're in the process of finalizing things right now, but whenever you are acquiring a player from abroad it is never completely done until it's officially done. At this point, things do look very promising and we have been assured by all parties that the deal is going to come to fruition. We're hopeful in the next couple weeks to have an agreement announced and then look to bring the player into camp, most likely directly into Spain (Editor's note: FC Dallas will be in Spain from Feb. 26 - Mar. 11). The deal is likely to be a one- to two-year loan with an option to buy."
FCdallas.net: The team will have at least two forwards, Eddie Johnson and Cornell Glen, who will miss time during the MLS season for national team duty. What do you do to assure yourself that FC Dallas will have depth at that position in 2005?
GE: "We didn't score enough goals last year. In my opinion, the service last year was adequate to good. Eddie had a good year, but in general terms we didn't get on the end of enough balls coming into the box. We didn't make the kind of runs that opened up space for other players. It's been no secret that this was a priority for us in the offseason to get more dynamic and more talented at that position. The one thing you want to be careful of is committing yourself solely to national team players because when they are called up, like Eddie and Cornell, they are absent from your team at the same time. At the forward position, we're looking for depth at forward four-five players deep, especially in light of the fact our lineup will be diminished by call-ups."
FCdallas.net: So are you actively attempting to acquire other forwards?
GE: "Yes. But how we do it - via allocation, use the allocation assets in trade, trade other assets like roster players or draft picks, or use our discoveries - is yet to be seen."
FCdallas.net: With Cory Gibbs' departure to Holland taking place recently, is there anything you would have done differently in retrospect about that circumstance?
GE: "I think one of the ironies that people have neglected to point out with the situation with Cory is that the only reason he went to Feyenoord was to gain fitness because the national team camp was canceled. If the national team camp never got canceled, Cory would be an FC Dallas player right now. At the end of the day when a player doesn't want to be here for any reason, I think it is best for us to move on. We received a very good allocation in return for his departure. In the future, we can handle this one of two ways: one being that we can choose to not let our players go out and train with other teams abroad and be paranoid about their exposure; or we can choose to take the other approach, which is to realize that it's a tremendous opportunity for them. If a player wants to leave at some point and is good enough to go, our decision to not let them go train with another team is not going to change whether he leaves or stays. The Gibbs decision was one that everybody was involved with, both HSG and the league were heavily involved. When we spoke to Cory and determined that he wanted to leave, we felt it was best that we both moved on. I haven't poured through the stats aggressively, but I would think that we were about the same team defensively, with Cory as we were without him last year. (Editor's note: FC Dallas yielded 1.61 goals per match in the 1,850 minutes Gibbs played and 1.27 goals per match in the 850 minutes he was not on the field. The team also had five shutouts when Gibbs started [21 matches] and three shutouts when he did not [nine matches].) That's not to diminish the fact that he is a very gifted player because we are going to miss him. We wished him the best, but at this point we move on."
FCdallas.net: How do you believe the team will use the two remaining allocations it has?
GE: "I think we'll spend those allocations wisely. We've had a plan in place since July and have been looking at players. Specifically with regards to the player from Ecuador, it has been a four-month, non-stop process of tracking him, scouting him, calling him and doing what we can to get him to Dallas. In the end, if it turns out to be a discovery and loan-plus-option deal, we didn't use the allocation but we have a potentially allocation-worthy player. Generally speaking though, we have identified the assets that we still need to acquire to be a championship caliber team. Certainly we are continuing to look for help up front. There is a school of thought that says we will need to replace Cory, although Colin and I have spoken at length about it and believe that we have a number of young, talented defenders in Alex Yi, Clarence Goodson and Drew Moor. We also have a veteran presence back there with guys like Steve Jolley and Carey Talley. I want to see how those guys come together and jell in spring training before we go and make a move to try and acquire a defender. Right now we need to be more offensive in scoring goals and are also looking for a little help on the left side. It will be interesting to see what happens with the left side as Eric Quill and Arturo Alvarez will be competing for a spot. The same thing goes for the back left with Chris Gbandi and David Wagenfuhr. The rest of the positions I feel pretty good about right now. You can always add depth, but we are going to use the allocations we deem necessary."
FCdallas.net: Speaking about your young defenders in Alex Yi, Clarence Goodson and Drew Moor, do you have any worries about how young that defensive unit may be?
GE: "I wouldn't say worried, but it is a fact that these players are not MLS match tested heading into the season. With Clarence, Alex and Drew, you have a grand total of something like five MLS matches. However, Yi is an experienced player at his age having played overseas, and he will not be intimidated by any atmosphere here. Clarence has a year under his belt of watching, listening and learning. We think he is going to be a very good player. Drew Moor is a great kid who comes from an acclaimed college program. I like the raw intangibles they all bring to the table. We've also got Steve Jolley back there who is an experienced competitor, and all of our goalkeepers are veteran guys. To me, defense works as an 11-man unit. I'm less worried about the work ethic and the abilities of the four defenders and the goalkeeper than I am of making sure that we play defense as a team. We are trying to acquire players who, for the most part, have a high level of defensive awareness in addition to their core skills. Conversely, also in most cases, the guys we have moved on or not re-signed did not have that complete level of awareness."
FCdallas.net: Do you anticipate making a trade with one of your current three veteran goalkeepers or will you head into the season with Scott Garlick, Jeff Cassar and Henry Ring on the roster?
GE: "You can never have enough flexibility in goal. Somebody is going to need a goalkeeper between now and the start of the season. It may be us, but hopefully it's not us and it's another team in the league. We have three goalkeepers in our camp that our bonafide starters in this league. Someone will need one, and at that time we will make a decision on which player we would like to move on. We have no plans to keep four goalkeepers during the season."
FCdallas.net: There are four players that are not signed as of today and FC Dallas has the rights to those four players. What is going on with Chris Gbandi, Milton Reyes, Toni Nhleko and Henry Ring?
GE: "Chris Gbandi and the league are having discussions regarding contract details. We have made Chris an offer, which we believe to be a fair offer, and we're hopeful we'll reach an agreement. In terms of Milton Reyes, he is a very athletic and gifted player that has aspects of his game that are still in question. Otherwise, we probably would have found a way to come to an agreement with him. It wasn't the case that we did not have the assets to accommodate him financially. It was a case of our evaluation against his evaluation. At the end of the day, we even tried to move him along to another MLS team. To date, there has been little, if any, interest and we have spoken to every team in the league. I would think he will likely continue his career back in Honduras.
"As far as Nhleko is concerned, we initially discussed a valuation with his representative. We were miles apart. He then left to pursue a career in Europe, where he signed but then had trouble acquiring a work permit that would have allowed him to play. His representative then came back to us asking us if we were interested in a deal within the range of our initial offer, but at that point in time the ship had sailed. I understand he re-signed with his old club in South Africa. With Henry Ring, we told him we wanted him to come into camp despite not being under contract with us. He understands the situation and how we do not have the desire to put him under contract and subject ourselves to a waiver fee. We expect Henry to be in camp and show us what he can do. The circumstances will dictate what we do in goal."
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