Sakiewicz: 'We are on track in Harrison'
and the team's -- performance.
In a live online chat Wednesday on MLSnet.com, Sakiewicz did not shy away from the sensitive subjects surrounding the club since the end of the 2004 season: the proposed stadium to be built in Harrison, N.J., the displeasure that some fans have been voicing about his ability to lead the Metros to success and the relationship between the organization and the Empire Supporters Club, a group containing some of the MetroStars' most fervent supporters.
Various rumors have been circulating in recent weeks about a possible blockage of the MetroStars' plans to build a soccer-specific stadium in Harrison. Sakiewicz squelched any concerns that the project is totally off track. He prefaced his comments by saying that he could not give all the details yet, due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.
"I hope fans can appreciate that I am not trying to sidestep the question," said Sakiewicz. "The truth is that there are a lot of good things happening to put this forward. Here's what I can report: we are on track in Harrison. These discussions have been nothing but positive and productive thanks to (New Jersey governor Richard Codey's) leadership."
Sakiewicz did concede however that 2006 is now probably an unreachable goal, stating that completion of the facility likely would not happen until 2007.
"At this point, and honestly, opening the stadium in 2006 appears unlikely," he said. "Right now, 2007 looks like a more realistic time frame. We are not going to cut corners in the design and development of the facility, which includes a sound financial plan that is good for the MetroStars in the long term."
Animosity has been brewing within some of the Red-and-Black faithful over the recent struggles of the MetroStars, both on the field and off.
Even with league MVP Amado Guevara and some of the best young players in MLS such as Eddie Gaven, the club's fans were disappointed with a late-season skid ending with an early playoff exit to archrival D.C. United. Adding to their unrest was a number of high-profile acquisitions who underperformed for the club. Also, several stadium announcements have been made in recent years with any construction yet to begin.
Some MetroStars fans have not been shy about stating their opinions that Sakiewicz could be to blame for the club's struggles. An online "petition" has been circulating calling for Sakiewicz's removal and he used the chat to reach out to fans, even directly addressing the petition.
"We are very aware of the petition and have thoroughly investigated it," said Sakiewicz. "It's very apparent that only a small percentage of the names are legitimate. Also, we don't believe the petition is a true representation of our core fans based on a number of factors, including feedback from a recent ticket holder survey. But nonetheless, you always hope your work is seen in a positive light, no matter what job you do. If I'm the one that takes (the fans') criticism, so be it."
Sakiewicz also used the chat to make clear the club's plans about starting a new fan club, which he says is not designed to replace the fan-created Empire Supporters Club. That misconception has caused friction between some members of the ESC and the club, though Sakiewicz believes the new fan club will not compete for the same audience as the ESC.
"There's a perception that our organization is against the ESC," he said. "That's the furthest thing from the truth. We will continue to try to work with the ESC in forming a stronger partnership between the club and the front office. There are some misconceptions that we are trying to eliminate the ESC. That, too, is the furthest thing from the truth and is a result of irresponsible rumors started on the message boards by a small group of people. We are, however, facilitating the formation of another fan club to complement the ESC, not to rival it. ESC leaders supported the idea of a new fan club after a meeting we had in August."
Fans will have a chance to address some of the more pressing soccer issues surrounding the MetroStars when head coach Bob Bradley goes in the hot seat next Wednesday (Dec. 22) at 2 p.m. ET. Fans can submit questions early by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or send their inquiries live during the chat by sending an instant message to MLSnetChat.
Additionally, Sakiewicz will be available to the public again when the club holds a live meet-and-greet in January. A date, time and location for that event has yet to be determined.
Jonathan Nierman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.