Elmocatt recently asked about the TNT's travel plans for the Sounders this season, and reminded me that last season we involved readers of this blog in the decision of what late-season road game we would cover. (We specifically asked whether I should travel to Columbus or Kansas City, and you guys overwhelmingly said Columbus, and that's where we went.)
So -- with the Sounders not training and no real news expected today -- this seemed like a good time to take a similar survey.
First, the good news: I'll be traveling to the Sounders next road game: after the World Cup break at Philadelphia, for the dedication of their new stadium, maybe to ask coach Peter Nowak about whether he really meant all those nasty things he said about Freddie Ljungberg, and, of course, to see Sebastien Le Toux against his old mates.
However, we haven't decided where to go after that. So, once again, we'd like your input. For the purposes of this survey, don't consider internal issues like cost or convenience or my off-the-clock sight-seeing. Just from a soccer-coverage sense, which of these trips would best serve TNT readers/Sounders fans:
July 4, LOS ANGELES: The runaway-leader of MLS this season, although their stars could still be missing due to World Cup duty. Also, for what it's worth, holidays tend to be pretty light days for newspaper and blog readership. And we covered Sounders-Galaxy at Home Depot last season.
July 15, D.C. UNITED: The expected Sounders debut of Blaise Nkufo. DC became a Sounders rival last season through U.S. Open Cup, although United is off to an awful start this time around. I could also update this charter franchise's difficult efforts to get out of awful RFK and into a soccer-specific stadium of their own.
July 31, SAN JOSE: Resolution of this season's Heritage Cup. This almost-geographic-rival is much improved this season. Can update their efforts to get out of tiny, goofy, no-frills Buck Shaw Stadium and into their own soccer-specific place. Covered Sounders' 4-0 loss there last season.
Aug. 14, CHIVAS USA: Pairing of what are currently the Western Conference's most disappointing clubs. Chivas had Sounders' number last season. Chance to write about Chivas' unique place in MLS and the niche it is seeking in the LA area.
Sept. 4, NEW ENGLAND: Hmm. Hard to think of much this trip has going for it. It's even too early for the New England leaves to have turned colors. However, it might be interesting to do something on why Gillette Stadium seems to be such a failure as an MLS venue, while Qwest has been such a success. (Most obvious answer for now: suburban/urban.)
Sept. 16 & 25, COLUMBUS and CHICAGO: For the purposes of this discussion, let's view these as a single entry. These are the only back-to-back road games remaining on the schedule in the same general part of the country, and therefore I'd probably take a few vacation days in the Midwest and cover both games in a single trip. Columbus, of course, remains a strong squad with Sigi connections. Chicago is one of the few MLS stadiums I haven't yet visited. And this is the home stretch of the season where the playoff points race could be getting pretty intense.
Oct. 9, KANSAS CITY: The playoff race could be just that much more intense as the Sounders head off to their second-to-last home game. A chance to see Major League Soccer in a minor-league baseball park. But also perhaps to get a tour and update the progress of the new soccer-specific stadium rising on the Kansas side of the line.
(The Sounders conclude their regular season on the road Oct. 23 in Houston, but let's not consider that one for now, because the state of the playoff race will probably make it obvious closer to that game date whether that game is worth attending or not.)
So, please weigh in with your thoughts sometime over the next few days. If there is a clear consensus, we'll go there. If there isn't, we'll still weigh your input before making our decisions.
Thanks, as always, for participating.