Road trips are the rule in Major League Baseball, but a rare exception in Major League Soccer.
There is only one multiple-game trip on Seattle’s 30-game regular-season schedule, and the Seattle Sounders start it tonight at FC Dallas before flying directly to Toronto for their Sunday afternoon game.
“It’s always tough playing on Thursday and coming back and playing on a Sunday, especially when it is a Sunday afternoon and especially when you are traveling between the two games,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “You’re traveling to Game 1 and you’re traveling to Game 2, and so doing two on the road like that is tough. ... We will get through with it. It is the way the schedule was dealt to us, and we will face it.”
Multiple-game weeks will become more common in the summer when the Sounders begin juggling U.S. Open Cup, CONCACAF Champions League and international friendlies along with the MLS schedule.
And while the MLS regular season gives Seattle three sets of back-to-back road games, this is the only one where the team won’t return home between matches.
“Because of the distances traveled, it doesn’t make sense to come home,” veteran goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “... I have done it a couple of times in England where we did stay over when we had games in close proximity. But it is rare, and obviously where you would not have to jump on a plane and fly four hours to your next destination. In saying that, in some ways it gets an extra trip out of the equation.”
The Sounders will adjust by taking 20 players on the trip - two more than can dress for a game. And Schmid expects to juggle his lineups between games to avoid forcing too many players into 180 minutes of competition over the four-day trip.
“It’s great for people to get some playing time, but at the end of the day we need to get the points,” said designated player Freddie Ljungberg, who turned 33 last week. “So we will see afterward if it is a good thing or not. It’s great for the guys to get playing time. Mike Fucito, I talked to him before, I love his work ethic, the way he thinks and stuff. I am very, very pleased that he scored, and hopefully he will get more chances.”
Fucito was the hero of the Sounders’ 1-0 win over Kansas City on Saturday, scoring the lone goal in stoppage time. However, he suffered what appears to be a minor knee injury in that game. And while he practiced Wednesday, he seems more likely to play Sunday than tonight.
Meanwhile this trip could be tougher in terms of logistics than opponents.
Dallas has started 0-1-2, standing alongside D.C. United as the only MLS teams without a victory. The Hoops’ home attendance also ranks at the bottom of the league, with an average of 9,286 turning out for the first two dates at Pizza Hut Park.
Toronto has a much more rabid fan base, with its 21,978 home average trailing only Seattle and Philadelphia. But TFC is off to a 1-3 start and has a minus-six goal differential.
“We know we have got four days on the road,” Keller said. “We just need to concentrate and do our job. It’s a rare occasion and we just need to make sure we are ready for it. Like I said, we have a good squad. We’ve got guys who are ready to step in if some guys are a little banged up or a little fatigued. ... I feel very good in our prospects in these two games.”
Don Ruiz, 253-597-8808
SOUNDERS FC GAMEDAY
SEATTLE SOUNDERS (2-1-1; 7 points) AT FC Dallas (0-1-2; 2 points)
Kickoff: 5 p.m., Pizza Hut Park, Frisco, Texas.
TV: ESPN2. Radio: 97.3-FM (1210-AM in Spanish).
Head-to-head: Seattle leads 1-0-1. Last season, the clubs played to a 1-1 draw at Pizza Hut Park, and the Sounders won, 2-1, at Qwest Field. This season’s return match in Seattle is scheduled for July 11.
Team leaders: For Seattle - G five players tied with one; A 2, Fredy Montero; S 14, Montero; SOG, 4 Montero, Steve Zakuani; GAA 0.75, Kasey Keller. For FCD - G four players tied with one; A 2, David Ferreira; S 14, Jeff Cunningham; SOG 5, Cunningham, Ferreira; GAA 1.50, Dario Sala.
Coach Sigi Schmid's scouting report: “They have a lot of pace. Cunningham is obviously a guy who scored a lot of goals last year in the second half of the season. He is a very streaky forward, so you hope he doesn’t start a streak against us. But they have got good attacking parts. Ferreira is a dangerous guy as well. Dax McCarty is a good player who also tends to get forward. … Daniel Hernandez is a good solid rock of a defensive midfielder.”
Notes: Dallas is one of two winless MLS teams (along with D.C. United). However, FCD has a 10-game unbeaten streak at home, including two draws this season. Seattle, with points in six of its past seven road games, earned a draw in its lone road game this year. … Both teams think they have had plenty of chances that they have failed to finish. … Seattle has scored five goals and allowed three; Dallas has scored four and allowed five. … FCD has four rookies on the roster including Zach Loyd, the fifth overall draft pick. … Dallas midfielder George John, from Shoreline, played for the UW Huskies (2005-07).
Injuries: For Dallas, defender Kyle Davies (arm) and midfielder Marvin Chavez (hamstring) are out. For Seattle, midfielder Michael Fucito (knee) is questionable, midfielder Freddie Ljungberg (groin) is probable.
Next: 11 a.m. Sunday, at Toronto FC; BMO Field, Toronto; Ch. 5.
Don Ruiz, staff writer