Just one game is left in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs Conference Championships. This Sunday, Columbus Crew SC will visit the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena , deciding the Eastern Conference. In the Western Conference, the Portland Timbers travel to FC Dallas and Toyota Stadium.
A shot at MLS Cup hangs in the balance for all of these teams, and no result is set in stone--so everyone needs to come in at full fitness. There's just a little thing to get through before that, though: Thanksgiving.
So how is each remaining playoffs team dealing with the U.S. holiday traditionally celebrated with a carb-fest of gluttony and sloth? The Sideline found out.
FC Dallas will not skip a beat in their training regimen this week, gathering at their usual 10AM time on Thanksgiving morning. But they will take the time to celebrate the holiday. Goalkeeper Chris Seitz and his wife, Kate, have organized a potluck for players, front office staff, and other club employees and their families.
“We started out small with probably five or six people, then we were, like, ‘Why not make it big?’” Seitz said. “It’ll take a little bit of organizing, but my wife’s got it under control, and obviously all the families here are close.”
Each family is in charge of bringing a different side, from dressing to green-bean casserole to various types of potatoes, and the club’s head chef volunteered to prepare the turkey.
Training on Thanksgiving is new to most FCD players, but they are cherishing it. After all, it can only mean one thing.
“It means you’re still in the postseason,” defender Ryan Hollingshead told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s good for us that we’ve put ourselves in a good spot where we have a game to win on Sunday. So Thanksgiving just reminds us that we’re still all here together.”
The Timbers are probably feeling pretty good about their chances after last week's victory. So, no, head coach Caleb Porter isn't putting his team under any dietary restrictions, either.
"Our lives go on through the holidays, so nothing changes," he told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week. "We'll train Thursday. The guys will go home and obviously have a good meal with their families, and football goes on."
Indeed it does.
NEW YORK RED BULLS
The Red Bulls come into the game down two goals on the aggregate, but maybe head coach Jesse Marsch is hoping a carb-up will help their chances.
The team both practiced and celebrated Thanksgiving together on Wednesday. On the menu? The classics: pasta, turkey, green beans, roasted potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberries.
So what about Thursday, the actual holiday? No rules against having a second celebration, say team officials -- fill up those glycogen stores!
COLUMBUS CREW SC
Head coach Gregg Berhalter is taking an easy-going approach. "A little less stuffing and a little more turkey, perhaps," he said he might advise his players. "But it’s a holiday. We want them to be with family and really enjoy the day."
"I don’t think Thanksgiving really fits into the low-carb, high-fat diet. That said, they say closer to the game is a better time to have carbs. So Thursday is close enough," said defender Michael Parkhurst, who also said he's part of an informal Thanksgiving Crew SC gathering. "A bunch of us will hang out. Not necessarily a team thing, but a couple guys are going to host some guys and a few guys live close to home, so they’ll be doing their own thing. But we’ll enjoy it."
Kei Kamara hinted he might be a little more likely to indulge. "Growing up in Africa, Thanksgiving is only celebrated in secondary schools – it’s like a special ceremony we do. But here, it’s amazing to take a break and bring all the families together and have a big feast. We’re thankful for everything," he said. "I just won’t tweet what I’m eating so [Crew SC High Performance Director] Steve [Tashjian] doesn’t know it."
-- Reporting by Eric Giacometti, Andrew King, Scott Sidway, and Dan Itel