Merritt Paulson, TImbers vs. SJ, 6.1.16
Photo by Craig Mitchelldyer

Facebook Q&A: Timbers and Thorns FC owner and CEO Merritt Paulson answers fan questions

Thanks for the questions. Wont be able to answer every one so apologies if I didn’t get to yours. And some of these answers will be WAY longer than 140 characters so I realize there may be too much reading involved!  Either way here you go.  MP

Front Office / Development Related Questions
Q:  Keegan Meyer: Do you think there are more things our city and surrounding communities could be doing to improve PTFC's academy?
Several years ago I underinvested in our academy relative to other MLS teams (and over-invested in others) given how small our Homegrown territory is in terms of number of registered youth players. We have changed course and hired Larry Sunderland as our youth tech director. He is doing great things and hopefully it pays off. We also have a couple academy players who stand to make an impact in the near term on T2 and first team. I am optimistic about our academy but also very optimistic about T2’s role in developing some high-potential teenage international players we have signed.

Q:  Rick Mullins: How can I get a scouting Jon with the Champions!! Can send a resume for your review!! Be Great!
Well for starters spelling “job” correctly would be nice. ;)

Players & New Acquisitions
Q:  Casey Crebs: What area of the team (Timbers) are we looking to improve during the transfer window

Q:  James Totton: Do you have sights on an international star?
We have some international stars: Diego Valeri, Adi, Ridgewell, Chara etc. Guys like that who are in their prime are who I have my eye on. That said we did make a bit of a run at a very big name international guy leading into 2014 so you never know.

Q:  Oracio Hernandez: Will the timbers ever get a big name signing? What would it take to get a Giovinco, Dos Santos, Kaka, to come to Portland?
See above. I see the Timbers getting guys who help us win. Never sign for a name.

Q:  Michael Crosky Nsr: Do you foresee Porter ever managing the USMNT?
Who knows. It’s a very high profile gig and he is young but managing a national team is a lot less time with players, a lot less meaningful games and only tournament soccer which can be flukey with results.  I am not sure that suits CP who is a workaholic…that said he would be a great USMNT coach no doubt.  Maybe later in his career but if he ever leaves Portland (and hopefully it's not for a long time if he does) I wonder if maybe it's for a good European club job.  All that said I do hope USSF takes a hard look at MLS if they ever do make changes as we have some great young coaching talent in our league. (and no I am not calling for a change – not making headlines here!)

Q:  Rubie Vargas: What was your part in trying to get Amandine Henry to Portland? Also, thoughts on the incredible job Mark Parsons has done so far this year? Especially considering its his first year, and its the first year for so many other players too.
I was part of the Henry recruiting process for sure and she is a HUGE addition to the NWSL. Getting the best players in all WoSo in our league – not just best Americans – is important.

I had high hopes for Mark and he is surpassing my expectations.  More than the results, I love the culture he has created.

MLS Related Questions
Q:  William Smith: Some still seem to feel that the MLS is unable to shake off the reputation it holds as a last pay-packet for European super-stars as they go into the latter stage of their career and pre-retirement. Note Gerrard, Pirlo, KaKa, Shaun Wright-Phillips and many, many more in the last couple of seasons alone.

How do you think the MLS can eventually shake off that reputation and begin to truly compete with the European leagues.
I think this is changing. I know of several older high-profile names who want MLS badly this window but nobody wanted to sign them. I believe MLS fans – not just Timbers fans - care more about quality of play than names past their prime. We are learning that as a league and seeing marquee name signings like Giovinco and dos Santos sign in their prime is huge but I also love players like Piatti. I think we will see more and more like him here. I frankly think watching Valeri, Chara, Adi etc. carry us to success has had a nice impact too.

Q:  Charles A. Brouhard: Like the Timbers in 13, or Dallas last year, Colorado has found a way to move from the bottom to the top of the table. With the league this turbulent, what does a front office (without NY/LA megabucks) have to do to win consistently in MLS?
No doubt we are a parity league and the cap makes it tough to sustain success. That said it's possible with the right plan and maintaining a good, young succession plan. We as a league also need to keep increasing our investment levels in quality talent as we grow. And I think MLS under-invests in international scouting …. That is changing.

Two other points:

1) Colorado has improved but the season doesn’t end in July. Lets see where it shakes out in Oct. 

2) Despite our league parity there is a big gap between the west and the east. Just look at the points by conference. The west should get extra credit for Supporters Shield…it’s a slog out here!

Q:  Sarah Morgan: Honestly how good is the Thorns chances of winning the league this season?
Good but anything is possible in the playoffs and need to stay healthy. I just know we have a team that’s playing the best soccer in the NWSL and is championship-caliber. Fingers-crossed.

Q:  John McNair Clarke: Do you feel like the NWSL is heading towards expansion in 2017, or do you think they will wait a year or two before adding more teams? (Asking because I've fallen hard for our current lineup.)
Not sure…I know more teams are interested in entering but there could also be a scenario when an acquisition of another franchise happens. You never know.

Q:  Leslie Hodgdon Murray: I love the Thorns. Clearly we have the best team in the league this year. What can PDX fans do to encourage the NWSL in growing and expanding, other than being season ticket holders, etc.?
We are setting the bar for what is possible … our example is an inspiration and good things are happening in the NWSL away from Portland and more will happen in the future.

Q:  Ted Ernst Sarvata: You sometimes seem frustrated by fans asking for better treatment for NWSL players and the league as a whole. You're both the most successful owner and the most available, so we reach out to you for lack of better options. Can you help us understand the realities of the Thorns as an outlier and what other teams are dealing with? And the league as a whole? Help us help you.
Frustrated by fans asking for better player treatment?! Opposite is true. Love that the fans care and I am with them on most areas. In terms of amateur compensation which is what I think you are referring to I 100% personally support paying them and am working toward that place with my partners. But our fans also need to recognize other markets in NWSL face far different realities than we do. There are several reasons for that and some is fixable but the NWSL is the first women's pro soccer league to make it past three seasons.

Q:  Dave Enloe: Merritt, I would like for you to share, as much as you possibly can, your opinions ... likes and dislikes with regards to US SOCCER. Has it been, is it becoming an adversarial relationship?? What needs to change?? Will those changes happen?? And, I do THANK YOU ..... for without Merritt Paulson, there would be no TIMBERS - no THORNS.
USSF has been a great ally …particularly with the NWSL. You say without Merritt Paulson there would be no Thorns but without USSF there would be no NWSL. They put their money where their mouth was to create a league with a new business model that could last. I truly believe it was 3 strikes before an out for pro WoSo and this was the third strike. They made sure it worked. No question you don’t always agree on everything and things can improve but NWSL fans should always remember they owe their league to USSF. On the Men’s side I want what they want: a world class national team. In terms of the perceived MLS/USMNT divide I believe positive steps are being taken to bridge the gap.

Providence Park Related Questions
Q:  Roger Waters: Where are the Timbers at on the additional seating on the south end of the stadium?
South end expansion is unlikely. Too much money for too few seats. We are assessing another option though that could add 3,500 seats and work well operationally. Not cheap but may make more sense if we do expansion. I liked your work on Dark Side of the Moon by the way :)

Q:  Mike Perron: Will we see a real grass pitch in Providence Park by 2019?
Ahhh…I must have ESP…had a sense this was coming. 3 part answer:

1) Our artificial surface is unique and very high quality. We change our turf every 2 years and allow less non-soccer use on it than any stadium I know. No concerts or truck shows (which are particularly damaging) happen at Providence Park. The fill mix we use is soccer-specific with more give than the NFL fills and the FieldTurf technology keeps improving with our current field providing by far the most grass-like roll we have had. Even Bruce Arena reportedly was complimentary (in private of course) when LAG played here last week. There is a reason Henry, Beckham etc. played here and nowhere else on artificial: ours is the best. (I am hopeful Drogba is our first turf “no-play” next week though!) Just like all grass pitches are not the same quality, there can be huge difference in artificial; too often they get lumped in together.

2) I think most are aware of the unique lighting and drainage issues our sunken bowl would have for grass. But more importantly, we are contractually bound with the city to negotiate with PSU in good faith to host their 5-6 home football games. To do those in the fall would seriously comprise the quality of a grass field in wet Oregon weather during our key MLS stretch run not to mention issues w visible lines.

3) Here is my #1 issue w turf: in July-Aug heat playing Sunday afternoon games in our national tv window in direct sunlight is a unique problem on artificial surface. An “incubation” effect that doesn’t exist with grass occurs from about the ankle down on the field surface. The climate in that range can be 40+ degrees hotter than air temp. It's terrific we have set national tv windows but while we have Sunday afternoon games (and especially in our ever changing climate) we need to better manage hot games on turf. Push them later when possible like we did last year several times or have a different standard for water breaks and watering the pitch would be my suggestion.

Misc. Questions
Q: Aaron Poole: Other than the MLS Cup final last year, what was your favorite away day with PTFC (including USL days)?
Tossing the hot dogs to the TA in Seattle in 2011.

Q:  Joshua Stafford: You're the emperor of FIFA for a day: what rule change would you make immediately upon walking in the door to your office?
I will stick to only the technical side here: employ technology to help officials get key match decisions correct in a way that preserves the flow of the game. I would also change off-sides to only being called when there is daylight/space between the attacker and defender. Too tough to call as it exists now and giving a slight advantage to the attack makes sense.

Q:  Katelyn Best: 1) Who named your dog? 2) Is he named after Diego Chara or Diego Valeri? 2) if you had a girl dog, would you name her Tobin or Dagny?
My daughter named him; probably both but you would have to ask her (Diego Valeri did tell me he is happy the name is just “Diego” and not “Diego Valeri”); and in a family w all women I only looked at boy dogs! :)

Q:  Matt Kelly: Merritt: would you ever be interested in an NHL team for Portland, with you in the ownership group? Oh. And RCTID.
Would have to be Paul…they own and control the facility that works. I have my hands full anyways!

Q:  Mike Pacific: Hi MP, Who is your favorite Ninja Turtle? I know you have one.
Caleb Porter