Six days away from home, nearly 9,000 miles of travel, flight delays, computer failures and 100-degree temperatures: Those were just some of the things the Seattle Sounders dealt with on their recently concluded road trip.
They still managed to come away with a win against Trinidadian side Caledonia that kept them atop Group 4 in CONCACAF Champions League play, and a tie against FC Dallas which moved them into third place in the Western Conference.
“It shows our character and morale,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said following Sunday’s 1-1 tie in Frisco, Texas. “We knew we would have to hang on at times, try to get as many fresh bodies as we could out there. We didn’t expect [Osvaldo Alonso] to get hurt, so that forced a change on us that we didn’t want to make, but I was really pleased with our character.”
The Sounders’ trip kicked off last Tuesday with 6 am flight out of Seattle. That meant the players had to be at the airport around 4:30, which in turn required some players to be out of bed by 3.
There was a scheduled layover in Houston that was delayed about 30 minutes. The Sounders were then forced to sit on the tarmac for another hour-and-a-half as United Airlines experienced a system-wide computer failure that made taking off impossible.
“We were supposed to get into Trinidad at 9:15 their time, we got in at about 11:30,” Schmid recalled. “By the time we got to the hotel – and the bus ride was interesting, it was tough not to puke with the herky-jerky driving – so we got to the hotel at 12:15-12:30. That’s when we had dinner. So guys got to bed around 1:30, 2 o’clock in the morning. So it was basically a 24-hour day. Welcome to the joys of travel.”
The conditions at Ato Boldon Stadium were interesting, as well. The humidity was about 80 percent and the grass was considerably longer than anywhere in MLS, which led to some sluggish play.
Likely due in part to the fact that it’s not Caledonia’s normal home, the crowd was also nearly non-existent and the dozen or so Sounders fans that made the trip were clearly audible.
“We invited them to our hotel after the game,” Schmid said of the fans. “We bought them a round for their support and their coming. It’s tremendous, they have signs and banners and so forth.
“A lof the guys went over there individually shook everyone’s hand that came, said hello and talked to them. That’s something special, too, special about our team and special about our supporters. To have them there in good voice and unison was tremendous. It was a big plus.”
In contrast, the trip to Dallas seemed almost pedestrian. The only major external obstacle was dealing with the 100-degree heat. Considering the Sounders are more used to temperatures in the 60s and 70s, the weather still took its toll.
“We couldn’t play our best match,” Sounders midfielder Mauro Rosales said. “We couldn’t. We tried, but it was too hot here. We were coming from Trinidad and Tobago and a 10-hour flight with delays with all this stuff. We did a great job trying to win this game and to play to the same level as them.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.