SEATTLE -- Opening the season on a five-game winless run got the Seattle Sounders off to a rough start. Although they were able to recover to a degree, that seems to have set the tone for what would ultimately become a disappointing season.
“I’d be lying if I said it was the best locker room we’ve had in the five years I’ve been here,” Sounders GM and part owner Adrian Hanauer told reporters during a nearly 40-minute conference call on Monday. “There were some tensions at times.
“Our team wasn’t settled when the season began. We were unfortunately still doing transactions and trying to get the cap managed and in order. Then, obviously, once we went on the bad run at the end of the season, you could cut the tension with a knife. I think everybody was on edge.”
Whatever tensions were already there, Hanauer acknowledged that Clint Dempsey’s midseason addition may have played some role in exacerbating them. But whatever short-term cost, Hanauer also suggested the price was worth paying.
“Clint is a strong personality,” Hanauer said. “He’s going to be an absolutely fantastic personality for this team, but when you inject a strong personality in the middle of the season, it changes the dynamic a little bit.
“I think everybody can see the quality on the field. You don’t know what’s going on in the locker room but he is going to be a great leader on this team for hopefully many years.”
The Sounders also struggled to integrate their other high-profile addition, Obafemi Martins, who joined the team about two weeks after the season started.
The Nigerian international triggered his buyout clause from Spanish club Levante in midseason, and then dramatically made his Seattle debut less than 24 hours after flying in from Europe.
Martins got off to a fast start, scoring six goals in his first 10 appearances, but injuries eventually got the better of him. Martins was only able to appear in six of the Sounders’ final 16 games, and was limited to just one substitute appearance in the playoffs.
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“I feel bad for Oba because I know he got some crap for not being on the field at the end of the season and for us being able to keep him healthy,” Hanauer said, noting that Martins made about 50 appearances for club and country over the last 14 months without a significant break.
“To some degree, no wonder his body was breaking down a little bit. I suppose if I have any regret as far as Oba goes, we probably should’ve figured out a way to shut him down for three, four, five weeks and let him rest his body.”
While the pieces may have never quite come together this year and also acknowledging some other moves are in the offing, Hanauer also suggested he expect Dempsey and Martins to form a strong core next season.
“I am looking forward to those two guys being able to put in a full year for us,” Hanauer said, “because I think those two guys can do a lot of damage in MLS.”