Even by Sounders FC standards, this is a long trip.
On Tuesday, the Sounders traveled from Sea-Tac Airport to Trinidad, where they will meet Caledonia AIA tonight in a CONCACAF Champions League match.
“It’s as far south as we can go in our confederation,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought we were going to play in the Sudamericana Cup because we’re right there (off the coast of South America).”
The next day, the Sounders will fly to Texas, where they will return to Major League Soccer play at FC Dallas on Sunday. By the time the wheels touch down at Sea-Tac again on Monday, they will have traveled 11,150 miles.
Experience had taught the club that the best way to handle CONCACAF trips into the Caribbean and Central America is to divide them in a way that left a final leg comparable to MLS travel: a couple of hours, maybe, something around the length of Seattle-to-Los Angeles.
However, the logistics didn’t allow that on the trip to Trinidad – no stop in Miami without a red-eye flight, no charter flight – so the Sounders endured it all in one long day.
“We’ll see how we react to that because our experience the first time around in CONCACAF wasn’t real good doing that,” Schmid said before the trip. “It’s something that we have to accept, though, and we have to work through and deal with.”
In 2010 Champions League, the Sounders lost all three road matches at Monterrey (Mexico), Marathon (Honduras) and Saprissa (Costa Rica). In 2011, the club went 2-0-1, winning at Monterrey and Herediano (Costa Rica) and drawing at Comunicaciones (Guatemala).
This year, Seattle opened CCL play with a 3-1 win over Caledonia at CenturyLink Field.
However, the travel is reversed in the rematch, which will be played at Ato Bolden Stadium in Couva, Trinidad, rather than Caledonia’s usual home pitch of Hasley Crawford Stadium in Malabar.
“The difference is how far is Trinidad,” Seattle midfielder Mauro Rosales said. “We try to take away (the effects of the) flight as fast as we can. ... I think it’s something that the team is prepared. We have many players in a good (fitness) who can help us take some points from them. We are looking to keep our (road success) and something that can help us enter the final group.”
The Sounders lead Group 4 with three points (1-0-0). Marathon (0-0-1) and Caledonia (0-1-1) have one point each. Group stage involves a home-and-away round robin among the three clubs. Only the group winner advances to the knockout quarterfinal round.
Schmid said the Sounders are not settling for the standard formula of winning at home and playing for a draw on the road. His stated goal is to win the first three matches and have advancement clinched early enough to make meaningless the fourth and final CCL match on Oct. 24, which coincides with the final week of the MLS regular season.
“It’s going to be important for us to get those three points,” forward Fredy Montero said. “We are going to be close to the next round. It’s going to be a tough game to play. We know we have the players who can handle that. We can go there and step up on the field. We need those three points if we want to go forward in this tournament.”
NATIONAL TEAM DUTY
Defender Adam Johansson and midfielder Mario Martinez have been called in by their national teams for World Cup qualifiers.
Johansson, who has 11 national team appearances, will join Sweden for its match against Kazakhstan on Sept. 11.
Martinez, who has 17 caps, will join Honduras for its Sept. 7 and Sept. 11 matches against Cuba.
Both players are expected miss only Seattle’s Sept. 8 home match against Chivas USA.
SOUNDERS FC (US) AT CALEDONIA AIA (TRINIDAD)
5 p.m., Ato Bolden Stadium, Couva, Trinidad
TV: Fox Soccer Channel. RADIO: None.
HEAD TO HEAD: Sounders FC won the first meeting, 3-1, at CenturyLink Field on Aug. 2.
NOTES: Seattle is 1-0-0 and Caledonia is 0-1-1 in group stage of CONCACAF Champions League. The other team in Group 4 is CD Marathon of Honduras (0-0-1), which played to a scoreless draw with Caledonia last week. The three clubs will play each other, home and away; and the group winner will advance to the knockout quarterfinal round. Seattle qualified for Champions League by winning the 2011 U.S. Open Cup. Caledonia advanced to CCL for the first time by taking the 2012 Caribbean club champions cup.
QUOTABLE: “The big thing is if we can win our next two games we can hopefully make the (final) game meaningless. That’s where we’re at right now. If we can win the next two, then there’s no way Marathon or Caledonia can catch us.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.
NEXT: The Sounders return to MLS play at 4 p.m. Sunday at FC Dallas. Their next CCL match is Sept. 19 at Marathon.firstname.lastname@example.org 253-597-8808 blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt email@example.com