This week's notebook is all about Nelson Rodriguez's Tuesday afternoon press tele-conference. There's a lot to digest, so let's get right to it.
Rodriguez on the lack of news so far
"I know that announcements haven't been publicized yet, I wouldn't want that to be misconstrued as there hasn't been work that's been conducted or results that have been achieved."
On the coaching staff
"We will look to make an announcement on the full coaching staff in about a week's time. We are still finalizing one position, but the staff has been working together and dutifully so, and we feel good about that."
On MLS Free Agents and new transfers
"In less than a week's time we will announce two MLS free agents with whom we've reached terms. We are simply just waiting on the requisite paperwork from the league. Those will be consummated, and in less than a week's time we'll be able to announce that. Our priority this offseason has always been, and remains to some degree, the centerback position. We have agreed to terms with a European centerback. That contract is not yet signed, but we have no reason to believe that there will be any hang ups.
"We have a standing offer out to a second European centerback. In that instance, we are competing with some Champion's League teams for him. We're hopeful."
On the Draft pick and a possible trade
"As has been the case every year as you get closer to the draft, intensity and scrutiny of the number one pick heightens. Just today, this morning, while at the field watching the last set of Combine games, we received two offers for the number one pick. That's in addition to the offer we had received about a month ago that we had rejected. There's also three or four other teams that have inquired about the pick, and I suspect in the next 24-48 hours that if we don't reach agreement to trade the pick, there will be one last attempt by someone to secure it. What I know about the number one pick is, whether we keep it or we move it, on Thursday we'll be a better team."
"We're definitely open to trading it and we're definitely not there yet. We have not made a decision as to who that selection would be if keep it. We believe that there are some very interesting players, all of who would help our squad."
"There are very few times when a club has power. In a sense that leads to leverage. Right now, we can choose any player we want that's available inside the MLS SuperDraft and that is very comforting. We know the player that we ultimately select will improve our team. We also know that it is a commodity, and that's been proven again by today and teams making independent offers to secure the rights to the number one selection. We need to be judicious in how we handle this unique moment in time, because quite frankly unless we trade for the number one in the future I hope to never have to make this choice again."
"We're evaluating (a trade) against what else we're doing to construct our team and what other moves we may be able to make within MLS. The two offers that we received today were extremely similar, which gives us an indication of how the broader market is viewing the value of the number one selection. I have no way of knowing whether they're evaluating the same player but we will continue to analyze those two offers and then go back and see if there is further action is required or not."
"I'm probably hurting our negotiating position but I believe in being honest and transparent. It is possible that we would accept one of those offers."
"The construction of a roster is a mosaic of a lot of different tiles, and good roster has variety in it. Variety of age, variety of experience, variety of abilities offered, and personalities in the locker room. (Signings) are very much integrated with what we do with the number one choice and what is happening with the rest of our plan. It is quite possible that something that we're trying to accomplish internationally could be consummated and could impact that selection."
On the potential for finding starters in the Draft
"I believe there are MLS starters in the draft and I believe there are maybe starters along all four lines - goalkeeper, back, midfield, and forward. That's why I'm confident, and we don't feel pressured to do anything with the first round pick because we believe we will help our team no matter what. What we've told teams that have inquired about the number one pick is that, we view it this way - if we're going to trade the number one choice overall, we need what we call an accelerator. That would be a player that would be a starter at a more advanced or better level than what the number one pick may project to be or we need a multiplier. That would be some combination of that which would allow us to secure at least two players. Whether that's a starter and a pick, a player and allocation or TAM money, two picks. Whatever the case may be, that's how we look at it. If we were to move it, and we have not made that decision, we would want something that we call an accelerator or multiplier."
On the number of players by training start of camp
"We're not driven by numbers as much as we're driven by quality, and as much as we're driven by ensuring that the people we bring in share our values. Share our appetite for the game. It's a long season. In an ideal situation you have 90% of your team in place by the first day of training camp. We might still be there. I don't mean to suggest that we can' get there or we won't get there but we won't use January 25 as the deadline by which we have to complete moves. The season doesn't start until March 6, and as I've mentioned, it's a marathon not a sprint."
"I think it would always be optimal to have your complete team on day one of preseason. I don't believe any club in our league will have that situation. For certain, some clubs are at a different point in time in the evolution of their team. Teams that don't have a new coach. Teams that have a veteran core."
"There are three or four other free agents from MLS that we are speaking with now and we have several other international options that we're speaking with. I think by the time January 25th rolls around, we're going to be at our max suitable number. If we weren't, I still wouldn't worry because the core and guts of the team will be there. The players that we add later will take a little longer to integrate. It's a long season."
On International spots
"I think over the course of the season we will end up using all eight international slots."
On the possibility of veteran adds such as Javier Saviola
"Not immediately. It has nothing with Javier and his abilities, it has to do with our priorities. Our priorities remain the center of the defense. I know we have been frustrating to agents who have are continuously submitting players for our consideration, and we essentially just keep turning them aside. We remain singularly focused on our plan and our process. We want to resolve the centerback position, We think we have enough firepower on the team as it is, but we need to improve the defensive side of our game. We'll look to do that and once we do, it will become easier to expand the parameters of our plan and start to incorporate several of those (other) positions of need."
"Overall we still need to improve the depth of our attack, but it will not come at the expense of the center of our defense. I would say it remains a possibility but only after we finalize our plans for the center of defense."
More on the Euro "DP" centerback
"The other centerback that we're interested in acquiring, we're competing against teams that are Champion's League teams. The player would not be a Designated Player. He would be a player that would be eligible for the new Targeted Allocation Money and the funds that come from that pool. We will be very excited in acquiring this player but obviously it's challenge. It's a global market and we're competing against that global market. I know that our offer is competitive, and I know that our project for where we're taking the Chicago Fire is competitive. I know that because the representative for that player has contacted us each of the last two days to say we remain interested in the Fire. Can you give us a few more days. Being as that we don't feel the need to impose a deadline, we also are exploring other centerback alternatives to that one so that we have contingencies in play and we will continue to work that. The second one would be another good one to go with the one whose terms we've agreed."
On the potential return of the Sting
"I'm not aware that there is a team - the Chicago Sting. The only Chicago Sting that I remember was in the former incarnation of the NASL. Honestly, we're just worried about assembling a team that will be the foundation of our championship program and that's where our focus is."
On core players
"I think right now we have three or four definite core players. Harry Shipp and Matt Polster, we believe are players that can become part of that core and we need to see continued development this season, so that we can count them and incorporate them into the core. We believe that in order to keep for a sustained period of time a championship level within MLS. you need seven to nine steady starters year in and year out. They need to be the same seven to nine guys. Our hope would be that by the end of this season, we start to approach that number. Not everything can be done in one year. It's a process. For sure if we have continued development, especially from some of the younger guys we mentioned, there's a few others that we believe could develop to becoming part of that core (as well), then we'll be in a better position earlier against our three year time frame."
On the MLS Combine
"For us this year the Combine was really important. Perhaps even more so than in previous year and perhaps more so than it will be in future years, essentially because Pauno did not have the chance to see as many players live as we would have liked, and he would have liked. Although he watched extensive video, all of the players at the Combine, and many others who were not invited the Combine, there is no substitute for seeing a player live. For seeing their behaviors off the field. For seeing their behavior off the ball. For seeing their reaction for things that might happen outside of the view of a camera lens. For us the Combine was really important this year because it gave him that first hand account. Candidly, t gave me the same thing. There were a great number of players I had not had the opportunity to see live, so being here was a big advantage. In the future, I think the Combine will still have importance but perhaps not as much because we'll have a far better developed and more robust scouting system. We'll have more detailed dossiers on every player before we get down here."
"We have to recognize that MLS ended in early December and we have been essentially dark as a league since then. I believe that the draft in any sports league provides something that is critical to every fan of every team, and that's hope. Whether it's the last person chosen or the first person chosen, it represents hope to every fan in the league, and to front office staff that hope that the individual selected will prove to be an instrumental contributor or even a difference maker to the present and the future of the team. The SuperDraft itself, is on almost a yearly basis, the number one traffic day of the year on MLSsoccer.com. I think introducing players to a fan base locally and nationally is really important. One need only look at the NBA and the NFL and what they've done with their draft and how that keeps those leagues relevant and consumer friendly at a time when their sports aren't being played. There is a place and a need for the Combine and a place and a need for the SuperDraft. I see that for the foreseeable future."
On 2016 as a rebuilding year
"I don't know if it's rebuilding. We're introducing another dynamic that's very distinct. It's very important that we have within our group, players that love football. We want a culture that lives football. The only things more important than football are family and faith."
On what will make a successful season
"Our goals, just like any other team's goals will be MLS Cup. Our goal, just like most other teams, because I'm not sure all of them hold it in the same regard, will be the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup. When you're a competitor you have to look at what the real prize is that you're playing for and those are the top two for us. Success will be measured in a lot of different ways. The most tangible, and the ones that matters the most to fans and perhaps the media, would be the minimum of common denominator of did you make the playoffs. And if you made the playoffs how far did you advance and the Open Cup might be another one. For us success will be measured by, are we at the end of 2016, are we according to our metrics and measures in doing things closer to our ideal scenario, which is where we're trying to be by 2018. We want to compete and make the playoffs. MLS has shown that once you're in the playoffs anything can happen and any team can find its way to win MLS Cup. We want to win the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup."
On fan discontent with silence so far
"I don't think the fans are frustrated, I think fans are smart. We don't conduct our business to win a day of positive PR. We conduct our business to win championships. It's more important to me that we remain disciplined with our process and we remain focused against our plan. That we remain nimble, so as to react to unforeseen circumstances or unique opportunities that may arise. I think fans appreciate that. They appreciate it better when it all comes together. The process can be viewed as either boring or slow but in the end no one is going to remember that we didn't make an announcement on January 12. They're going to remember what our record was and how we performed, and that's what drives us."