The Sounders trained at Starfire this morning before beginning a long and eventually white-knuckle trip to Tegucicalpa, Honduras, where they will meet CD Olimpia in a CONCACAF Champions League group play.
The itinerary is to fly to Houston today, overnight there, then fly on to Honduras tomorrow, play Wednesday and then return home in a single long day of travel Thursday.
There are factors that make this more than just a long international trip. Maybe foremost if Tegucicalpa airport’s reputation as one of the most dangerous in the world. Then there is the hard feelings that were stirred in the Sounders’ 2-1 win over Olimpia in Seattle, which is expected to make for a rough game before riled fans. And the there is juggling all this in advance of an MLS visit from the Portland Timbers on Sunday -- a game that is a rivalry, which will be played before a crowd of more than 60,000 and which figures massively into the Sounders playoff drive.
Here’s some of what coach Sigi Schmid had to say today before the club flew out:
On carryover from the first Olimpia match) Obviously they’re going to be very aggressive as well. We’ve got to be prepared for that. They rested pretty much their first-team guys this weekend, so they want to get their three points at home. We’ve got to defend with good quality and look for our chances on the counter.
On impact on the Honduran crowd) It will probably add a little spice to the game than would have been – probably gets their crowd into it. Probably even helps their attendance for the game just the way the last game ended.
On divising the roster for the two games) The important game for us is Portland on Sunday. Our focus is on that. But we know that we have this game in Honduras in the Champions League, and anytime we send out a team we want to do well and get the result.
On the Sounders’ 1-0-1 start in the four-game group) There’s no breathing room, obviously. And the way the schedule is with us, playing them now and being three games in and not knowing how they and Vancouver are going to do impacts things. But either way – not matter what happens in this game Wednesday – it’s going to come down to our last game with Vancouver is going to be very important.
On the travel arrangements) It’s not easy. We trained here today, we’ll fly to Houston, then we’ll stay in Houston tonight. We’re trying to split up the travel day, because if you make it one day it becomes really long, it’s really arduous then. This way there’s a hotel at the Houston airport, so we just check into that hotel and we just walk to our gate the next morning and complete the rest of the journey on Tuesday. But at least that way the guys get a good night’s sleep, and it breaks up the travel day. Plus you can’t land in Tegucigalpa at night anyway.
On if he’s ready for landing at this airport) Yeah. I’m going to have my window shade down and try to fall asleep.
On travel back in a single day) You try to travel back in one day or else it becomes a really, really lengthy trip. Thursday coming back, I think we get in at 8 o’clock at night. It works out for us. We gain the two hours, which is helpful coming back.
On flying commercial) That’s a club decision. Chartering is a little more difficult again going into Tegucigalpa, because the size of the plane you’re allowed to land in there and the experience of the pilots is involved.
Only traveling only the necessary players) We’ve split a squad. We’ve got a group of guys going down, we’re keeping a group of guys here to train. We’re going to keep (fitness coach) Dave Tenney here, we’re going to keep (assistant coach) Ante Razov here as well, for the guys who are staying behind to train.