SANDY, Utah – When Real Salt Lake take on Seattle on Wednesday night in a vastly important Western Conference clash (10 pm ET, NBCSN, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), both sides will perhaps be a little bit stronger than originally expected.
RSL's Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando, as well as Seattle's Eddie Johnson are all with the US national team in Kansas City for a World Cup qualifier Tuesday night against Guatemala. With kickoff at 6:15 local time, and no direct flights from Kansas City to Seattle, it was thought the three players would not arrive for their clubs' game until mid-afternoon, only hours before kickoff.
That changed as someone stepped up. RSL elected to bring their US internationals home on a charter flight – and extended the offer to Johnson as well.
"We're doing Seattle a big solid,” RSL head coach Jason Kreis said on Monday. “Hopefully, the good karma will come back to us. A host of people have had a discussion about it over the last day or so, and we decided to do what we think is the right thing.”
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid heard from US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann that the RSL players would be hopping on the private jet belonging to club co-owner Dell Loy Hansen following the US qualifier. Schmid then proceeded to contact Kreis about the possibility of allowing Johnson aboard even though he admits he won't start his striker vs. RSL and will think twice about giving him minutes given the injury risks.
“We figured if they had an extra seat we may as well,” Schmid joked. “It’s great for the clubs to cooperate like that. If we were the ones who had a plane there to bring Eddie back, we’d bring their two guys back as well. That’s just good sportsmanship.”
As much as Real Salt Lake are happy to have their two players back, was it a tough decision to help out the exact team they are battling for the No. 2 seed in the conference?
"Your initial response is, 'I don't know if this is such a good idea, helping our opponent,'" said Kreis. "But you have to believe they would do the same if they were in our shoes. Ultimately, we want the best game possible, which means the best players available.
"Seattle, as we know, is a fantastic place for our sport, and has given us so much with their fans that I think it is always going to be the right thing to do."
That doesn't, however, mean things will be exactly equal on Wednesday. Chances are very high that Rimando will not see game action – he's been the USMNT’s No. 3 goalkeeper behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan for the previous qualifiers. Beckerman, as well, didn't get off the bench in the American's 2-1 win over Antigua and Barbuda last Friday. Johnson, on the other hand, played all 90 minutes, scoring both goals in the process – something one would imagine equates to extended minutes for the US on Tuesday.
So even if he does return 24 hours later, Johnson may not have much left in the tank.
"Absolutely I want Eddie to play 90 minutes,” joked Kreis. “I hope there are a few extra minutes to play as well.”