MLS: Quotes from May 25 media teleconference

The following are quotes from the MLS media teleconference on May 25 that featured commissioner Doug Logan, Chicago coach Bob Bradley, D.C. United coach Thomas Rongen and D.C. United forward Roy Lassiter. Doug Logan Opening Remarks "We had a pretty good week this weekend, with more than 20,000 fans in three venues ... It looks like we have prospects for the same this weekend with extraordinarily well-attended matches ... We expect to hit 20,000 in DC, we're well over 20,000 for the annual doubleheader at Giants Stadium, which features not only the MetroStars but also Colombia and El Salvador, and we expect 20,000 in the Los Angeles at Columbus match, with a post-game promotional concert." "We've finished tabulating our season tickets even though there will be more partial packages recorded ... The total full-season equivalents topped out for this year at 43,423 total ... That's up form 38,860 last year for a 12% increase ... Columbus is a full 60% improvement over last year but other markets are to be commended for extremely strong sales ... We saw a 31% increase in Washington, D.C., a 30% increase in Colorado, and a 42% increase over last year in Miami." "These numbers are very important to us ... Our ultimate success will be predicated on how well we do ... The year 2000 season ticket drive starts this week, since the way we treat our customers and the way we treat our patrons is how we will be remembered when it comes time to renew ... This past year we had a good rate of renewal, not a great one ... Overall it was about 70% ... Next year I hope that the renewal rate hits 75%." "Ten days ago, we organized and put on the Internet through Yahoo what we're calling Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Soccer Game, which is a fantasy soccer league to gauge the level of interest on the part of our fans ... We are overwhelmed that in less than 10 days there are 51,792 contestants who have selected a team to participate in this game ... The game began on May 19 and will run through the last day of the season." "(MLS Executive Vice President) Ivan Gazidis is still working with teams that are missing players ... There is nothing new to report ... Discussions are taking place with Miami, New York and San Jose." "Columbus' opening game which was on ESPN2 at 11:00 p.m. ET (on Saturday, May 15) got an extraordinarily high rating ... We achieved almost a .40 rating, significantly higher than our .26 average rating, which is higher than last year ... That 11 p.m. ET Saturday night time slot is something that we may be examining for next year ... Every time we've had a game on late on a Saturday night the last four seasons we've done very well with our ratings at that time, and its something we'll explore with regard to some degree of regularity." Bob Bradley Opening Remarks "We are very excited about playing at RFK Stadium in Washington. D.C. ... It's a game that all of our players look forward to ... We have tremendous respect for D.C. United, for the way they play and for everything they've accomplished ... This is our last chance to meet them in the regular season this year ... From a player standpoint, it's a special game ... From the coaches' side, I know very well that if we don't play well, that it will be a difficult night ... It's a great challenge for us ... I saw a tape of D.C. at Miami ... I've seen Marco on so many occasions take that little look and make a goalkeeper look very badly ... This one he made look so easy, I don't even know if people realize what a tremendous goal it was ... When I was in D.C., I can remember staying after practices and being in awe when I watched him strike balls ..." "The pure way that he can catch a ball and strike it, it's like watching a great golfer or baseball hitter ... We felt badly for Jeff Cassar on that particular goal, but it was a special thing to see him handle a play so easily when he was 60 yards away from goal ... Hopefully we've seen the last of it, at least for another week ... Again, this is a game that we are looking forward to and a special night." Thomas Rongen Opening Remarks "We've got tremendous respect for the MLS Cup '98 Champion Chicago Fire ... It's the only time that Chicago is coming to D.C. ... Our team is looking forward to the opportunity ... We've played very well since seeing them in Chicago ... It was quite a contest ... We're 3-0 since, we're getting some players back healthy ... It's a great opportunity for 22 great players to show what MLS is all about ... It's also a great opportunity for us to stay on the winning track, which will not be an easy task against a well-coached team like Chicago." Roy Lassiter Opening Remarks "My recent success (10 goals in nine games) has come from my teammates ... I have 10 guys behind me who work very hard, not only to try and get me the ball, but also to get other players the ball ... We've been working very hard in training, staying after and working with Thomas keeps a player very sharp ... There are aspects where I need to get stronger, so I'll just concentrate on those things and work as hard as possible." "The Chicago defense has great backs ... (Lubos) Kubik and (Francis) Okaroh are very tough ... You have C.J. Brown and a great goalkeeper in Zach Thornton back there ... We respect them, we respect ourselves, and I think it will be a great day for Major League Soccer." Logan on season-ticket numbers "What we've lost in Los Angeles is not season tickets ... As a matter of fact, I think they're up about 1% season-ticket wise from last year ... But what their attendance problems accent is the importance of season tickets, which I have been very preachy about to various managements in L.A. over the course of time ... A major market like L.A. with only 2,000 season tickets is not enough ... If you are going to let your business be determined by the spontaneous decision-making of your fan on Friday night through Sunday morning, then you run the risk of having groups decide not to patronize you on a given Sunday evening ... That's the bad part ... The good part is that they are readily there to win back on that basis." "Overall, a gain of 12% in season tickets is a healthy improvement ... The fact that seven markets have gained is a good sign ... Our attendance is, on a week-by-week basis, improving little-by-little and this past weekend's average of 15,800 has pushed us to nearly 14,500 overall ... School will be out, the weather is getting better and we've got some interesting races going on, so I see some cautiously optimistic signs here." "I do have concerns about attendance numbers in L.A., attendance numbers in Kansas City, and attendance numbers in Miami, but you are always going to have a top and bottom of the heap." "Walk-up attendance comes as a consequence of assimilation and long-term loyalty ... We are still in the mode of getting people into the stadium in any way possible to witness the game ... We have tried a variety of promotions, some have worked and some have not ... But once we get them in our stadiums, it's our job to get them to stay and it's the hard work of getting a one-game buyer to become a six-game buyer and ultimately a season-long buyer ... There is no secret formula to this thing, but generally having a competitive team in an environment where people come for two hours to have fun is the way of doing it ... Overall I think we're doing pretty well, and I see some pretty good signs on a go-forward basis." Bradley on United's style of play from 1998 to 1999 "The main difference is that they've had to deal with an unusual number of injuries ... They've done an incredible job of dealing with that ... They've missed Eddie Pope for a stretch, they missed Etcheverry for a few games, we saw Jaime Moreno in more of a playmaking role ... They've had to deal with a lot of different people in different places ... However, I've seen so many of the same things that have made them dangerous for years ... The importance of Carlos Llamosa in the back, holding things together, the way things go through Richie Williams to Marco Etcheverry, and the way he has such an eye to play the kind of balls that Moreno and Lassiter need to be dangerous and score goals." Bradley on measuring the Fire against D.C. United "D.C. is the team that everyone in the league measures themselves against ... They've had great success in the league and with the victory over Vasco da Gama, they've shown even more people around the world what a great team they are ... We're just like everyone else - we will always measure ourselves against them." Rongen on taking over for Bruce Arena "It's been a fairly easy process in that this team prides itself on excellence in all areas, both on the field and off the field ... The people here allow you to coach, just coach and put a winning product on the field and that's very refreshing, so it's been quite smooth of a transition ... We played against D.C. several times wherever I was in the league, so I knew several of the players ... The team has responded very professionally, so nothing has changed as far as our philosophy is concerned." Logan on MetroStars season ticket sales "Final report is 5% higher than last year, with 5,579 vs. 5,296 ... After having such tremendous success in the first year and then to watch it slide the last two years, to come back this year is a real credit to their sales staff." Logan on what an aggressive marketing budget would do for ticket sales "$40,000,000 (would be great) but I don't have it ... Seriously, we still have resources that are very dear ... Available marketing dollars are always something that you wish you had a whole lot more of ... I wish I had the dollars that Commissioner Stern had to launch the WNBA but I didn't have 10% of that." "With what we have got to spend we do a pretty good job, but how we establish our identity as a brand is going to come as a consequence of the two things I've been talking about for nearly four years: that is, how we play and who witnesses it ... Whether it be coming to the stadium and passing it along via word of mouth, or people who witness our game on television and are therefore attracted to come to our stadiums." "Season ticket sales are the grunt work of our business ... You gotta go out there and have a good strategy for your market ... It gravitates towards one direction or another ... Here are two examples: "Take somebody like Nick Sakiewicz, who has taken a base of 1,600 and grown it to 4,000 in Tampa, Florida through corporate ticket sales, versus grass-roots ticket sales, which is selling in twos and threes and sixes and sevens, like Kevin Payne has done in Northern Virginia and South Maryland ... What you have to do is know your market, put together a good force, a good team, and incentivize them correctly ... But it's the hard work of getting on the phones with good lists and closing sales ... There's no magic wand, and that is not driven by advertising on TV, and in print and the other expensive things ... It's people-to-people contact that drives that." Logan on Fusion season-ticket numbers "Miami went from 1,082 to 1,536 ... I feel like it's an improvement ... They've done a significant amount of selling in the last 4 weeks ... But any market that has less than 4,000 season tickets is asking for trouble on a long-range basis ... By that I mean that you need to have 25-40% of your audience accounted for in season tickets before you even start ... There's a ways to go yet, but I am very gratified about the improvement over last year." Logan on Joe-Max Moore going to Miami "Joe-Max Moore is a player that is assigned to the New England Revolution ... He is in the last year of his contract ...The conversations that have taken place between us and Joe-Max Moore are confidential ... We have had a variety of discussions over how we are able to convince him to stay with us for the rest of his career ... It's not a well-kept secret that he has family in the Miami area, but those conversations are confidential." Logan on downtown stadium/MLS expansion to Milwaukee "We look at what the history of soccer as a business has been in any city ... I've met with those responsible for bringing a stadium to downtown Milwaukee ... It's a terrific market, a terrific city ... It's certainly on our long list of places to look at ... We scratch our heads and wonder whether bringing an MLS team so close to Chicago is advisable ... But we've encouraged those in Milwaukee that are building that stadium to go forward ... A lot can happen between now and the time we expand in our next three rounds ... Expansion overall is far more probable in 2000 than 2001 .... We are actively looking at Philadelphia and Houston and other places in the country, such as Rochester." Bradley on Roman Kosecki's health for this weekend's game "It's too early to tell, but we're optimistic that he will be available in some form ... We're cautious due to the fact that he had a hamstring injury last year and it kept him out awhile, so we want to look at this in terms of the rest of the season, not just one game." Bradley on cautious play around the league "I think every game is different ... As long as one team is taking initiative, then it could be a good game ... It's particularly good if both teams get after each other ... We tell our players that we can talk about how it might go, but it's still up to you to sort it out once the whistle blows ... We come out every game with the idea that if we move well as a team, if we pass, if we give good options, that we can be a team that holds possession and creates advantages." Logan on Chicago at D.C. not being on national TV "I don't know specifically, but there is a difficulty in meeting up what we consider to be our best matchups with what our television partner's schedule is all about ... I'm a little flabbergasted myself and taken aback that it's not on TV, but I don't have a clear answer." "We try to drive, as much as possible, games to Saturday night kickoffs, since Saturday is the optimum night for attendance ... This game will be well-attended and that Saturday night time period is not always the best with regard to our television partners ... From a competitive standpoint, because of where the teams wound up last year, this is the two teams in the final, they've played each other tough this year, they're both at the top of their respective divisions, they both play very attractive soccer, this is a premier matchup and its going to be a heck of a game ... Would we have liked to have it on TV?, yes, but we try to satisfy what is the heart of our business, which is the fan in the stadium, and sometimes that causes us to not hit the right television spot." "I would be answering the question in reverse, had the game been on a Thursday night with only 10,000 fans, but had been available to a national television audience."
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