Even though this time it's just a bus ride up the road to Vancouver, away games present challenges beyond the actual travel. Included among those are the hostilities of the home fans. And no player experiences those more than the goalkeeper, sometimes located just feet from supporters in the end-zone stands.
In general, the Sounders think Salt Lake crosses the line, but there was praise for Timbers Army and SKC for handling their taunts with some wit, and also for newcomers NYCFC.
Here's what Sounders keepers had to say about some of what they hear from the opponent's supporters:
STEFAN FREI: I get it pretty much everywhere because I’m close to the fans. When you know it’s not just another game, the fans are going to be able to have those bragging rights, it gives you that extra edge to maybe push even a little bit further.
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On if he apprecaites the heckling: You kind of zone it out and just play your game. It’s usually pretty sweet in the end: You win the game and you can just turn around and just pump your fist. They’ve got no response to that: You just won the game and beat them. That’s usually pretty sweet.
On if the heckling varies by city: There’s certain places where they speak a little German to me, or Swiss/German. Believe it or not, the meanest place has been Salt Lake. I was very surprised with that. I like it. I feed off of it as well. The time it bothers me sometimes is when I warm up, and it isn’t too crowded you can really hear every individual person yelling at you. And I don’t care, but there are little kids around and some people are a little drunk and they’re saying some things they shouldn’t be saying. I guess that’s part of the whole things.
On if he's had issues in San Jose, which coach Sigi Schmid sometimes cites: I haven’t. Last year I think Chicago fans weren’t happy with me because I was upset that them for throwing bananas and peanuts at me. And then this last game in Colorado, I had a little scuffle with the ball boy. But there’s a lot of emotion that goes on on the pitch. You’re trying to win these games, and (you) try to keep your emotions under control because you don’t want to end up hurting your team for sure.
Veteran keeper TROY PERKINSOn what he hears: I’d say the worst is Salt Lake. I actually had to tell a security guard he’d better grab me before I went into the stands because of some of the things they were saying. I think some of the funniest ones have been Kansas City. But in general I think most of them have been pretty good. You get the belligerent drunk guys every now and then that kind of ruins it for everyone. In general, people, they’ll give you a little bit; but at the end of the game they’re like, ‘We’re just playing around,’ they’re doing it with a smile. But there are some places it’s relentless and it’s pretty bad.
On if he responds: You don’t really interact, unless sometimes the ball will go out of bounds and if you’re up you can always turn around and give them a little cheeky smile or you just your head like you know what they’re saying. But in general you just ignore them.
On if things are thrown: Oh yeah. Playing in Central America a couple of times, I’ve been hit with a lot of things. In our league, nothing outside of the streamers, the toilet paper, stuff like that. Nothing dangerous. And that’s it. Maybe a couple of water bottles, if they get really upset. Nothing dangerous.
Goalkeeper coach TOM DUTRAIf heckling can get in keeper's heads: Oh yeah, especially in warmups, they’re all over the goalkeeper. You just have to say, ‘Narrow your focus. Just worry about what you’re doing. Don’t give them anything. As you get older, then you begin to talk with them, be friends with them or whatnot. But narrow your focus and concentration.
On New York City fans: They were great. We warmed up on their side. It was funny, as we were warming up they were all over us, but it was kind of surreal moment that we were in Yankee Stadium and we were getting heckled and everything else. It was very strange, but they were fine, they were great. Educated fans, for sure, and that’s what I appreciated the most.