By Tim Booth Associated Press
TUKWILA — Two games in six days going back-and-forth to Southern California was going to be enough of a travel challenge for the Seattle Sounders. Then U.S. Soccer decided to throw a major detour into the Sounders’ travel plans.
Seattle leaves Saturday on a unique eight-day road trip that will feature two MLS games, with a flight of more than 2,000 miles cross country for its opening match in the U.S. Open Cup in Florida sandwiched in between.
Unbeaten in their last six league matches, the Sounders will face the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday night, fly to Florida to play the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the NASL on Wednesday night in the Open Cup and back to Los Angeles for a league match against Chivas USA on June 1.
“An eight-day road trip isn’t idea. My wife and kids aren’t very happy,” Seattle defenseman Zack Scott said. “In the end we know what we’re getting into when you enter this tournament. There is always this possibility of a long travel week. We’ve won on the road before. We won a championship on the road so we expect nothing less.”
It’s a tough scenario for the Sounders, stuck trying to find flights from Los Angeles to Florida on Memorial Day to get to the Open Cup match. Seattle’s initial plans were to fly from Los Angeles to Orlando and then bus to the Tampa area.
The question is who will be on that flight. Seattle will use a mix of starters and reserves for the match against Tampa Bay, with those who play against the Galaxy but not needed in Florida likely headed back to Seattle. Those not going to Florida will rejoin the team in Los Angeles for the Chivas match, while some who play against Tampa Bay may fly back to Seattle instead of back to Los Angeles.
And if Seattle needed another headache, there is an MLS reserve game with Chivas the day after the league match.
It’s a confusing, difficult set of itineraries to try and put together in short order.
“It’s a little bit ridiculous from that standpoint for us, so we just have to now see and take our guesses as to who travels from L.A. to there, who we may give a break to,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “Do we rest them up there? Do we bring the whole group back into L.A. from Tampa? Do we fly some guys back to Seattle? Then they have to fly back down for the reserve game. Logistically, it’s a little bit of a challenge.”
Another wrinkle with the trip to Florida is the matchup between Scott and his younger brother Daniel, who plays for the Rowdies. Scott said Wednesday he had yet to talk with his brother except for texting. Had the Rowdies lost, Seattle would have hosted the Open Cup match.
“I told him thanks, thanks for the help there and I’ll remember this one,” Scott said.
The travel troubles come when Seattle has fully recovered from a miserable start to the season, but are about to enter an adjustment phase with Eddie Johnson, Brad Evans and Mario Martinez headed off for national team duties with World Cup qualifiers. Johnson and Evans will join the U.S. training camp following Sunday’s match, while Martinez’s departure to join Honduras is still being determined.
Seattle is expected to be without defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso for some time with a hip strain.
“It’s a test. It’s a challenge to all of us,” midfielder Servando Carrasco said. “But we know we have the depth to take care of those three matches.”