Payne Responds to Sounders
It is on. It is so on. Usually an afterthought on the American soccer landscape, the mom-and-pop U.S. Open Cup has taken a spicy turn this week, thanks to the executives for the two finalists.
It began when Seattle's Adrian Hanauer expressed disappointment that the U.S. Soccer Federation chose RFK Stadium as the site for the Sept. 2 championship game between the Sounders and D.C. United. He also questioned the bid process and whether United would draw 10,000 fans while suggesting D.C. would lose money on the game. Seattle made a lucrative financial bid to stage the match at Qwest Field, he said, but because of logistical stadium issues, the only realistic time slot for the soccer game was 1 p.m. (local) on Sept. 1 (Tuesday).
In comments to the Insider Thursday afternoon, DCU President Kevin Payne lashed out at Hanauer.....
What did you think of Adrian's comments?
"I was surprised and disappointed and offended. Adrian uses the word 'skepticism' to describe the process, which seems to be implying that it wasn't on the up-and-up. Which is really an outrageous implication. He is implying that we somehow are receiving favorable treatment. We bid aggressively at every level this year and last year. We did so because we didn't want to travel if we could possibly avoid it, given the demands of our schedule [Champions League]. Seattle doesn't have those same demands because this is their first year. Adrian has no knowledge of what we bid or didn't bid; my guess is that we bid more aggressively than they did."
"I appreciate that Seattle's fans are great. Our fans have been great for 14 seasons. It's really unseemly for Seattle to suddenly show up in MLS and everything should be handed to them. Their crowds are wonderful, we had a great time out there in Seattle [last month], but our crowds are pretty good too and we expect this year we will get far more people in the building than we did last year [8,200]. Last year we played a USL team in the final and, the way our team was going in general at that point, our fans were disappointed and disillusioned. That's not the case this year. We are going to promote the game very aggressively."
Based on the Sounders' outstanding attendance this year, do you think they would've won the hosting rights if they had offered a night-time kickoff?
"They might have. But there is something to be said for not playing on an artificial surface and not playing on football lines. We are able to deliver a surface that is arguably the best grass field in the league. We don't have football lines, and I can understand why the USSF would prefer that it's national championship not be played in those kinds of circumstances. Obviously the game-time was an issue, but that's not D.C. United's fault. Seattle wasn't able to comply with the time of the match. We did what the USSF asked us to do: We proposed financial terms, we met their requirement for day and time, and we provide them with the kind of surface soccer is supposed to be played on."
[Asked about the football lines, a Seattle spokesman told the Insider that they will be removed before all Sounders games this fall. UPDATE: On a side note, if you look closely at RFK's field, you will notice some very faint football lines left over from last winter's college bowl game.]
Should the bidding process have more transparency?
"Not if the critieria is going to be financial. If the USSF wants to come up with a new criteria, then it could be more transparent."
Final thoughts?"We expect to make money on the game; Adrian doesn't know what he is talking about there. ... I just think it is a little out of bounds in your first year to throw stones the way they have."