TUKWILA, Wash. — After what Sounders FC general manager Adrian Hanauer called "generally another solid season," it might be time for the team to spend more.
Belief within the organization — starting at the top with ownership — is shifting that way, Hanauer said in an end-of-the-year news conference Tuesday, but major changes won't be made to try to emulate the success of other MLS teams.
Particularly not the star-laden Los Angeles Galaxy, which ended Seattle's season in the Western Conference finals and will play for a second straight championship Saturday.
"We want to be Seattle," Hanauer said. "We want to play the kind of soccer that we want to play. From Day One, we've said we want to play attacking, creative, offensive, goal-scoring soccer, and I think we've done that. We want results, we want to win trophies — we've done that.
"For sure we want to do it better, but we don't want to be reactive. ... Just to be clear, we don't want to be L.A. We just don't."
Spending is always a delicate balance in MLS, which has a tight salary cap ($2.81 in 2012 but set to increase marginally next season). One way to skirt that limit is through allocation money, something of which the Sounders are running out, according to Hanauer.
Another way to avoid those financial constraints is by signing designated players, where only a portion of their salaries count toward the cap.
So is it time to bring a world-class star to Seattle?
Coach Sigi Schmid has expressed multiple times, and again Tuesday, that the team's DPs of Fredy Montero, Mauro Rosales and Christian Tiffert lack the experience and leadership of the Galaxy trio of David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane.
Hanauer stated the team is willing and interested in "dreaming big."
"We do think that there's an opportunity to maybe push the envelope a little bit," said Hanauer, who said the Sounders lead MLS in ticket revenue and rank in the top third in total revenue.
"It doesn't mean we will. It just means we'll make changes that we think are going to make our team better. Clearly. we don't want to spend more money just for the heck of it."
Schmid warned, however, that New York has spent millions on its three DPs, who boast similar résumés to the Galaxy stars, to little gain.
"There are so many different ways to achieve success," the coach said.
A week after its playoff elimination, Hanauer said the team is still in the information gathering stage of the offseason and not quite ready for major action. Changes, he noted, could be moderate or dramatic based on those assessments.
Schmid and his staff have been holding meetings with players this week looking ahead to next year.
"There's still another level for us to get to," the coach said, "but I think we're within view of the summit."
• Forward Eddie Johnson, who led Sounders FC with a franchise record 14 goals, was named MLS Comeback Player of the Year on Tuesday. Johnson was coming back from a number of difficult seasons abroad, not an injury, which was a source of some controversy leaguewide. He also won the award in 2007 with Kansas City.
"This was a fun and exciting year and I share this award with my coaches and teammates for pushing me to be the best player I can be," said Johnson in a news release.
Hanauer said the team has an option on Johnson's contract for 2013 and, to no surprise, intends to exercise it.
• No offseason surgeries are planned for the Sounders, though defender Adam Johansson suffered a thumb injury in the final game of the season that might require more treatment. A couple of players might explore training opportunities abroad during the next couple of months before preseason camp opens, Schmid said.
• Hanauer said the team will go on "lots" of scouting trips in the offseason on "multiple continents," but declined to offer other details.
• Schmid said 2013 might be the year the team ends up signing "one or two" homegrown players from its youth development program to the first team.