So before Bill Manning headed down to the MLS Combine in South Florida, and then to Philly (where it might be warmer) for the 2010 MLS Draft on Thursday, he took a bit of time to sit down and answer a few questions.
First up was how do you describe the success of 2009:
A) Beyond expectations on the field, year over year business results astounding improvements, was it unexpected, no. We had very high expectations on the business side, there were some areas that we increased, we exceeded and some we fell short. On the field did we feel we had a team that could win MLS Cup before the season started, we did.
That is why its not unexpected, were there times during the season we questioned if we had it, yes. Were there times during the season that we said theres not a team that can beat us when were playing our game, yes. That is why I say it wasn't unexpected but it also exceeded expectations, because we didn't say "were winning a championship and anything less than that is failure" because it wouldn't have been failure. It was exceeding expectations but not unexpected.
I think we had a game changing year for the organization both on and off the field, there is legitimacy to the organization, a solid fan base. A increase of 2,000 in paid attendance, those are real numbers. The team advancing to MLS Cup, and won it, that we are a very good franchise. If you take out the month of May (0-4-2), we had a pretty good record, but you can't take out the month of May. A good quote of mine is "we are no longer the lovable losers".
More after the break
MLS has entered a new era where clubs are now expecting to be profitable, was RSL profitable in 2009?
A) Not yet, we made great strides last year, this upcoming year will be close. I think we whittled it down significantly. This year is still critical, this is the year we aren't writing checks, but 2011 is the year we believe it will be a profitable business. Franchise value has gone up, which is a good way to judge ROI (return on investment). Were not there yet, but we have made monumental strides but I do think this will be a profitable business by next year.
One of the big challenges in 2009 was communications, both between the organization and the fans, as well as some issues within the organizations different departments. What progress has been made in resolving those issues?
A) I think, the fan relations department will allow a more open line of communications. I think the town hall meetings were good for me and Garth, it provided some perspective, i believe you will see more of those in the future. I hope the fans are starting to see is that when their concerns are voiced, that we take action and when we don't take action we can justify why we haven't. Internally, our communications has to get better, we hope and will see, but the creation of the fan relations department, the individual fan will see a difference.
Our twitter, and facebook feeds, we are second in the league behind Seattle in followers on facebook) is monumental. Our email capability, still working on the Comcast issues, our website will be improving. (note MLS is dumping the company that ran their sites for the past 4 years). The team will now have a much larger role in running their site in partnership with the league, the communication tools will be better. RSL has several people dedicated to communications and helping customers.
OK onto some 2010 questions, the first thing on a lot of peoples minds is the surgery for Javier Morales, Fabian Espindola, and Jamison Olave, do you have an update on their progress?
A) We feel good about all of them, Olave is in Columbia right now. All initial reviews are good and we did it quickly after the season since there is such a short window. When all of them come back into camp Jake will work with them on an individual basis. We feel good with all of them.
Jason's travels and any good catches or updates on potential additions to the roster?
A) What we are looking at right now is that we have some players internally that we would like to lock up to longer term, we decided as a franchise to do that with Javi, Olave, and recently with Fabi, that when there are guys that are integral parts of the core of the team that we want to pay them, work out an equitable deal. We have some guys we are working with now, once we work through those negotiations then we can see who we need to bring in. Clearly you look at a Yura Movsisyan and filling that position, Robbie Findley, Pablo Campos, Fabain Espindola, we feel good about those 3 guys but we still would like to replace him. Do we have someone in mind, no, we had a couple guys but they have signed with other teams, so we didn't have an opportunity to get them. Right now the focus is taking care of the crew that we have.
So that is it for part one. There are about 6-7 more good questions and some great answers coming and I will try to get those up Monday evening. Also on tap this week is the MLS Draft and RSL sits with the 16th, 32nd, and 48th picks in the draft. I will on Tuesday offer a look back at RSL's draft woes and wows over the first 5 years of the teams history. Who is your biggest draft pick hit and the biggest miss?
OFF MY SOAPBOX