Union sporting director spent a few minutes chatting with reporters at Wednesday’s practice. With Major League Soccer’s summer transfer deadline just a few hours away, it was no surprise that most of the questions Stewart faced were about the team’s lack of moves. Here’s a transcript of his remarks.
Will there be any business done today?
Maybe there will be some business done, but it won’t be much.
Is there a specific area you’re looking at?
No. We’ve been searching for some fits that might be good for us, but I believe once you do something like that, it has to be good. And up to now, the business that we’ve been able to do wasn’t sufficient enough so that [potential signings] would be better than what we have. So we’ve refrained from that.
There were some reports out of Greece that you were looking at Nicolás Martínez, an Argentine winger playing for Western Sydney Wanderers in Australia, and the brother of former Real Salt Lake forward Juan Manuel “Burrito” Martínez. (The reports came from Greece because Nicolás is on loan to Western Sydney from Olympiacos.) Were those reports correct?
He was here for a bit for training. To get to know him, to get to look at him. One thing I truly believe in is that you’ve got to find out what the person is like. We’re not just going to put people in the locker room that we have if we don’t know them. So that’s a very important part of the chemistry that we have here. So we had Nicolás over to look at that, but did not feel for us that it was the right fit.
When you measure this roster and where it is now against the other rosters in MLS, obviously there are a lot of young guys on it, but what do you see?
What we set out to do 18 months ago was build something for the future, and make sure that there was a foundation set. Then the add-ons that we would do at a certain point, that they would be good, that they would be better than we have. Up to now, I think we’re doing a good job at that.
Sometimes, I think people want to go very fast with some things. It’s as simple as that. It’s for us to judge if going that fast is good, and I don’t believe that right now.
A lot of these things that a while back [outsiders] were talking about, needing to change this and change that, we didn’t do that, because I don’t believe in that. Consistency, structure, vision are going to get you somewhere, and sometimes less is more.
Does your place in the table factor into that? Last summer you were in a good position, and consolidated that by signing Alejandro Bedoya and Charlie Davies. How does the table placement now factor into what you’re chasing in terms of moves?
I can sit here and say it doesn’t have anything to do with it, but that’s not true either. The difference between being really good and where people perceive us to be, it’s not that big. It’s not as big as people think. Is there a difference between our home games and away games? That’s for sure. But you only want to add something that actually will help you, and you know.
Last year with Ale and Charlie, I think that was something where one was in league who everybody knew [Davies], and Ale everybody knows. He’s an American, everybody knows what he’s about. We spoke to him several times. So that’s a good fit.
How happy are you with the guys you brought in during the offseason, such as Haris Medunjanin and Giliano Wijnaldum? They’ve adjusted to the squad and played big roles.
It’s good. And it has a lot to do with this transfer window too. In Europe, my experience that I’ve had there [is] everything that you bring in at the winter period there — which is halfway through the season — doesn’t necessarily match up for those short term games that you have. You mostly have to look at it as somebody who’s going to be there after the second part of the season, and starting the next season, so they can adapt to everything that’s there.
You’ve seen that with Haris a little bit less. He’s a very experienced player, so it didn’t take him much time to find his rhythm, where others need more time. Especially if it’s an international transfer, they need a lot more time. This is not an easy league to play in, and it takes time to adapt to the physicality that there is, and the traveling that there is, and all that. It’s just not easy for those players. So for some it takes a little bit longer.
But where we are right now, and with those players that we did bring in during the offseason, I’m happy with where they are right now.
Is that something that factors into how you look at the summer window? Trying to bring in a player who can have an impact in 12 games can be a difficult proposition, but what about a guy who can settle in over these next few months with an eye toward a larger role next year?
Yeah, but then you have to make it fair for that person too, because everyone you bring in during the summer, people expect them to be there right away. So you have to take that in the back of your head too — especially if you do a bigger signing. They need to be impactful right away, and if that’s not the case, then let’s make sure that we set ourselves up for the rest of the season, where I believe that we’re still in position to make things happen with the team that we have, and the faith that we have in the team and the consistency and the structure. And set ourselves up for later on and next season.
Of the players on the team right now whose contracts are up at the end of the year, or whose contracts have option years after this one, when do you start judging their futures?
Well, the judging started a long time ago already. You first let this transfer period go by, because that’s a natural thing that happens. It’s part of the season. Then after this transfer window, we start reflecting — the coaching staff and our scouting staff — to make sure that we make choices for next season.