Sounders Insider

Not just soccer players: world travelers

Here's the story from today's paper.

And here's some more from an interview with Grant Clark, the team administration director (and primary travel-handler):

Overview of this season's international travel: Having been through the Champions League last year, we’re now a lot more familiar with how things work, or don’t. We know the hotels that we stayed at and if we like those (we use them again) – and for the most part we are. We know how the transportation works. We know where we need police escorts. We know what the conditions are at the stadium and what we need to bring on our own, and what we know we can rely on. Even though CONCACAF is trying to do a better job of maintaining the gameday standards. We’re a lot more experienced.

On the variance in conditions within the CONCACAF region compared to MLS: The MLS teams, there a camaraderie among league play. Yeah, when the whistle blows we want to beat each other, and it’s as intense as any league anywhere. But there’s a camaraderie among most clubs in the league where if you need a massage table or if you need them to help you line up a massage therapist (they’ll help). That rapport is not there internationally. We get along well with some of the clubs, but not like we do within MLS. So then it does become a challenge. For example in Monterrey, Mexico, as year, we asked for some injury ice at the stadium and a guy showed up with a 25-pound block. Now we know how to deal with those kinds of things, but those kinds of things happen, and that’s just the way it goes.

We have a good group. They’re not complainers. … We just deal with it. And our guys know the club is willing to go to lengths to help, to make it better for them, however we can do that within the structure of the league and everything else. They also know the realities that the bulk of our travel is commercial. And when you fly commercial, there are issues or things that pop up.

The club does a great job of trying to give these guys every opportunity for success. And if it means we stay at the best hotels possible. We try to stay wherever the U.S. national team will stay whenever they go to some of these cities. No matter where we go in Central America, the first place that we get back into the U.S. feels like home. I never thought I would say that about Dallas or Houston, but it feels like: ‘Good. We’re home.’

On security: I have to say I felt as safe (in Monterrey) as anywhere that we’ve ever been. At Monterrey we invited the council general to visit the team and to the hotel and to dinner. And he was saying that things had deteriorated from where they were a year ago. And yet, having said that, usually the organized sports teams are off limits for the kinds of crimes that are happening there or at the casino – extortion things. A little bit in El Salvador last year – there was a little bit of hostility when the team pulled up to the stadium, but no one ever felt unsafe. They know they crowds, they know their culture, and they had appropriate security measures in place. The bus gets an escort everywhere we go. We don’t do that domestically -- we do it for traffic reasons, not safety. On the basics of passports and other travel mandates) Even though it says in their contract that the players are responsible for securing visas and their passport has to be valid and has to have six months validity left on it – and our guys are really pretty darn good about it – stuff happens. And ultimately Sig looks to me to make sure that all our guys have visas and we all have passports. But there’s only so much you can do. I can’t do anything if a guy loses his passport or forgets it at a hotel. I carry color copies with me when we travel, and sometimes that’s been enough to help us. But I only do so much. Again, our group’s pretty darn good. And to be honest – if you only think about major, major travel crisis – is our three years you could count them on one hand. Very few.