The Seattle Sounders are used to long trips, but the one they’re on now is different.
When the Sounders play an East Coast team, it usually follows a cross-country plane ride a couple of days in advance. That was the case before their Saturday match at New England — but not for their Wednesday match at D.C. United.
The Sounders planned this one out as a single two-game trip. They didn’t return home after their 2-1 loss to the Revolution, but instead remained in Massachusetts through Monday morning before heading to Washington, D.C. They even had enough time to do a little sightseeing around the nation’s capital Monday before preparing for their game Tuesday.
“A little bit easier, a little bit awkward,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “There’s always pluses and minuses. Playing Saturday-Wednesday is much better than having to go Wednesday-Saturday.”
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That’s because this timing paired equally rested teams. On Saturday, the Revolution had the same week between games as the Sounders. And now United heads into this match on equally short rest after its 1-0 win at Kansas City on Saturday.
That was United’s first win in six games on the road, and it puts D.C. one up on the Sounders, who are 0-4-1 away from home and looking to revert closer to their usual road form at RFK Stadium. In their expansion 2009 season, the Sounders went 5-5-5 on the road. They were 6-6-3 in 2010, 9-3-5 in 2011, 4-4-9 in 2012, 5-10-2 in 2013, 8-6-3 in the Supporters’ Shield 2014 season and 4-9-4 last season.
That’s 41-43-31 over their first seven seasons. Schmid generally credits the road success to maintaining the same tactical approach his teams play at home. He believes that’s been the case again this season, although the results haven’t come.
“I think our routine on the road has been decent,” he said. “With the exception of the Colorado game, I think we’ve been in games. Even in Dallas I think we were in the game. It’s just a matter of what we’ve been talking about: finishing our opportunities … and hopefully the dam will break.”
Winning at home tends to be easier for most clubs around the world, and across most sports. Travel can be stressful. Hotels aren’t home. The stadiums and playing fields are less familiar. And conventional wisdom is that home teams often get more calls — with the New England match doing nothing to disprove the notion.
Sounders veteran Herculez Gomez says all that is even multiplied by the geography of MLS.
“There’s not one (soccer) league round the world that has to deal with the travel issues that we have to deal with,” he said. “In Mexico, our longest flight was when I was in (Tijuana) and we had to go play in Chiapas, maybe three hours, and you’d go one time zone. Other than that, it was an hour flight everywhere else. Here, you can go Los Angeles to New York, it’s a 5 1/2-hour flight across three time zones. … That can take a toll.”
The Sounders saved air miles by staying on the East Coast. And in D.C. they will face a club that at 4-5-4 has its own share of troubles.
They’ll also play in a former NFL and MLB stadium where United has drawn 15,714 on an average game day and could struggle to reach that on a weeknight. However, the Sounders are 4-7-1 overall this season and scraping their bellies along the bottom of the MLS Western Conference. Schmid believes they should bring their own energy.
“Nobody should have difficulty getting fired up,” he said, “because we need to win games.”
SEATTLE SOUNDERS (4-7-1; 13 POINTS) AT D.C. UNITED (4-5-4; 16 POINTS)
5 p.m. Wednesday, RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
TV: Ch. 13. Audio: SoundersFC.com, in Spanish at 1360-AM.
Head to head: Seattle leads the series 6-2-2 overall and 3-1-1 at RFK. United hasn’t beaten the Sounders since 2011. This is the only scheduled meeting this season.
Notes: The Sounders have lost three consecutive games and are one point out of the Western Conference basement. D.C. has won two of its past three and is fifth in the East. … Seattle’s minus-four goal differential is tied for lowest in the West. … Seattle’s first-choice centerback combination could return. Brad Evans has been cleared after concussion protocol, and Chad Marshall (hamstring) is traveling with the team and is listed as questionable. Forward Oalex Anderson (hamstring) is out. … Seattle will be without DP forwards Clint Dempsey and Nelson Valdez, who are away with the United States and Paraguay national teams, respectively. United will be without defender Steve Birnbaum (USA) and forward Alvaro Saborio (Costa Rica.) … Jordan Morris leads Seattle with four goals. Saborio is United’s goals leader with four. Patrick Nyarko and Fabian Espindola have three goals each, and former Sounder Lamar Neagle of Federal Way has two goals. D.C. newcomer Alhaji Kamara scored 33 seconds into his debut last weekend against Kansas City — the league record for fastest goal in an MLS debut. … D.C. is 3-3-1 at home; the Sounders are 0-4-1 on the road. … United’s average home attendance is 15,714. … The assigned referee is Jose Carlos Rivero.
Quote: “They’ve got different people that can be involved in the attack from Espindola, (Kamara, Luciano) Acosta, Lamar Neagle. … They play a pretty classic 4-4-2. Sometimes it could be a 4-4-1-1 with Acosta dropping in. We just have to be on our toes, be alert and take advantage of our chances.” — Sounders coach Sigi Schmid.
Next: MLS takes a break during Copa America Centenario. The Sounders return to league play June 25 when New York City FC makes its first visit to CenturyLink Field.