COLUMBUS, Ohio – Getting from here to there and back is never easy for the Crew.
The “here” is Columbus, and the fact that it’s already difficult to get nonstop commercial flights to many MLS destinations is exacerbated by the travels for the CONCACAF Champions League.
“We get to see lots of different airports and try all the different restaurants,” midfielder Adam Moffat said. “Columbus, not being the biggest city, there’s not a lot of direct flights.”
That’s why the Crew arrived at the airport in Torreón, Mexico, at 7:30 a.m. local time Wednesday morning after completing a 1-0 loss to Santos Laguna just eight-and-a-half hours earlier.
The 9:30 a.m. flight (10:30 in Columbus) entailed 2,136 air miles, a one-hour, 57-minute layover in Houston and a total travel time of six hours and 16 minutes.
Of course, that’s nothing new for the Crew.
“You’re always going to take a connection flight from Columbus and you’re always going to take a connection flight to Columbus,” coach Robert Warzycha said. “You have to take connections everywhere. We are in Columbus, Ohio. If you live in Chicago, Dallas, DC, New York you have direct flights.”
Midfielder Eddie Gaven said the trip to Mexico was similar to going to Los Angeles in terms of time and distance with one exception: “We got in around midnight the night before [a game].”
The Crew and most MLS teams are not planning to charter for the Champions League games, although some Mexican clubs in the tournament do. Also, the Seattle Sounders chartered a flight to Honduras for their Group C opener against Marathón last week.
With the travel and the congested scheduling, it’s no surprise that MLS teams struggle in the Champions League compared to their counterparts below the Rio Grande.
“We haven’t scheduled appropriately to deal with these competitions,” Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said in an interview last September. “If we have expectations to win those types of competitions we have to make changes to the rosters, our scheduling and our means of transportation."
The league’s new CBA – signed in March – provided a few of these changes to ease the burden of the CCL schedule, but Crew midfielder Duncan Oughton still has concerns.
“I think [the league] could do a little more for us,” he said. “[For example], we had our two byes in the first month of the season when we really don’t need it.”
Of course, one way to make a grueling day of travel seem shorter is to get a good result from the match.
“The worst travel we had with the Crew was to Cruz Azul [last year],” midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo said. “We traveled that long distance [to Mexico City] to get spanked 5-0. That was crazy. It was a long trip.”
The Crew return to MLS action on Saturday at home against FC Dallas before hosting Joe Public in CCL action on Sept. 14.