The Seattle Sounders’ flight home from their weekend 2-0 loss in Utah might have seemed long.
But their current trip actually is long — more than 3,000 total miles, concluding Tuesday with a white-knuckle landing at one of the world’s most dangerous airports: Toncontin International in Tegucigalpa, Honduras.
“I’m not a big fan of flying into Tegucigalpa,” coach Sigi Schmid said when his team’s CONCACAF Champions League group was announced. “That’s not my favorite airport. … It’s one of the most dangerous airports to fly into. You can look that up. It’s, like, right on a cliff, so if you don’t take off in time, you’re over the cliff. When you bank in there, you almost feel like you can touch the dirt.”
The Sounders split the 3,000-mile trip to Honduras into two legs. The team flew to Houston after training Monday. They will complete the journey Tuesday.
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“At least that way the guys get a good night’s sleep and it breaks up the travel day,” Schmid said. “Plus you can’t land in Tegucigalpa at night anyway.”
That landing is no picnic in daytime, either. The airport regularly shows up among the most dangerous airports in the world — often first or second. The primary dangers are the area’s mountainous terrain, an extremely short runway and that cliff awaiting at the end. An internet search turns up several videos showing what it’s like.
Schmid, however, doesn’t want to watch.
“I’m going to have my window shade down and try to fall asleep,” he said.
Once safely back on sweet Mother Earth, the Sounders will overnight in Tegucigalpa before their Wednesday CCL match with CD Olimpia. And that could be a test of courage, too. Things got rough at the end of the Sounders’ 2-1 home win last week, and there is no expectation that the Lions — or their fans — have forgiven or forgotten.
“I know how Latin American teams, we think,” said Seattle midfielder Gonzalo Pineda of Mexico. “I think that they will be a little fighty, more aggressive, even in the field and off the field. I think they will try to put pressure even from the fans.”
The Sounders are early leaders atop Group F, at 1-0-1 with this match at Olimpia (0-1-0) and a home game with Vancouver (0-0-1) yet to go.
Schmid believes that visit from the Whitecaps will likely determine who advances from this group. So with a higher-priority Major League Soccer home match with the Portland Timbers coming up Sunday, the Sounders are expected to field a mostly reserve team in Honduras.
“The important game for us is Portland on Sunday,” Schmid said. “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 a result.”
Because the travel could be more taxing than the playing time, any players not in Schmid’s plans for Olimpia were left home.
“We’ve split a squad,” he said. “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.”
Schmid said midfielder Marco Pappa will travel and could make his first appearance since his arrest last month for suspicion of driving under the influence.
The Olimpia match will be broadcast on 97.3 FM, Fox Soccer Plus and Fox Sports Go streaming. … Schmid had no update on the possible return of forward Clint Dempsey and midfielder Osvaldo Alonso, both out with hamstring injuries.
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