Crime isn’t a major concern for Sounders FC as it travels through Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean in CONCACAF Champions League.
Tarantulas, however, are another matter.
A few days after the Sounders’ win at Monterrey last month, the Mexican city made international headlines when The Associated Press reported that members of a presumed drug gang set fire to a casino there, killing 52 people.
However, the Sounders say they’re confident their CONCACAF itinerary is safe, starting with Wednesday night’s game against Herediano in Costa Rica.
“(In Monterrey) we stayed pretty much in the hotel, and when we did our team walk, we just basically walked around the hotel,” coach Sigi Schmid said.
Team administration director Grant Clark said the club’s international travel issues are generally more mundane.
“We get along well with some of the clubs, but not like we do within MLS,” he said. “So then it does become a challenge. For example, in Monterrey, Mexico, last year we asked for some injury ice at the stadium, and a guy showed up with a 25-pound block.”
Clark said the Sounders are benefiting from such lessons learned during their 2010 Champions League debut. This time around, the club is more comfortable in lining up hotels and transportation and even arranging for police escorts when needed.
He also credited ownership’s commitment to make travel easier on the players.
“The club does a great job of trying to give these guys every opportunity for success … (including) the best hotels possible,” he said. “We try to stay wherever the U.S. national team will stay whenever they go to some of these cities.”
This week, the Sounders chose to divide their long trip from the Pacific Northwest to Central America. The club flew to the Dallas area Monday and will train there this morning before continuing on to Costa Rica.
“You’re looking at eight hours of flying time, probably two-hour connection time: That’s 10 hours,” Schmid said. “You’ve got to be at the airport two hours before: That’s 12. But by the time you get from the airport to the hotel it ends up being a 13-, 14-hour travel day.”
The flight to Texas was complicated because the MLS-approved travel agent had to divide the team over three commercial flights to get everyone there. The club will cut through any similar complications next week by flying charter to the CONCACAF game in Guatemala and again between the league game in New England on Oct. 1 and the U.S. Open Cup final in Seattle on Oct. 4.
Still, there is only so much the club can control.
Travel inevitably brings its share of surprises – including a hairy eight-legged one last season in Honduras.
“There was just a huge tarantula in the bathroom as guys are trying to take showers,” veteran defender James Riley said. “And (Mike) Fucito is arachnophobic, definitely; and the thing was absolutely massive. Everyone was afraid. It was a bit nuts.”
Goalkeeper Bryan Meredith signed with Sounders FC. Meredith was the Sounders’ fourth pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. He trained regularly with the Sounders and started for the Kitsap Pumas through their Premier Development League season. He will help ease the loss of No. 2 keeper Terry Boss, who was placed on the disabled list with a concussion. … Midfielder Michael Seamon also will miss the rest of the season after being placed on the DL due to a lateral ankle tendon injury.