By Brad Hubbard @bradhubbard
3 Eastern time zoned based MLS teams started out with back-to-back West Coast games to start the 2013 MLS Season. 2 of the teams stayed on the West Coast after their first game while 1 team made the trek back and forth. In total the teams went 3-2-1.
The Montreal Impact are in their second MLS season and on their second head coach, Marco Schällibaum. They were able to equal their road win total from last season by gaining victories at Seattle and at Portland. Arguably 2 of the toughest places to play at for a road team. The Columbus Crew were able to capture 1 win on their West Coast excursion and nearly drew with the Vancouver Whitecaps in their second match. Only the New York Red Bulls did worse, they let 2 victories slip away in matches at Portland and at San Jose.
Can you guess which team made the cross-country trip twice?
While Montreal and Columbus stayed out west New York chose to fly back to New York in between matches. In both cases the flights out west experienced delays (their first flight to San Jose was cancelled) and arrived later than expected for each match. In both matches they failed to close out the game by allowing both Portland and San Jose to score 2 goals each in the second half. The collapse in San Jose was almost unprecedented.
Did the travel have something to do with it? Probably. While everyone agrees that New York has one of the better clubs on paper in all of MLS they were unable to gain 3 points in either match. Montreal, complete with a new coach and the oldest average staring lineup in all of MLS (30 years old) were somehow able to gain a total of 6 points on their road trip. Was Montreal better rested and hence better prepared than New York? Probably. New York spent roughly 12 extra hours in the air traveling as opposed to Montreal and Columbus who only made the trip out west once.
Staying in the same time zone has proved beneficial in other sports as well. Over the last 2 seasons the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers have twice played back-to-back East Coast road games. Both times, after the first game they stayed in Youngstown, Ohio for the week before traveling to their next game. The result, 3 wins and 1 loss.
Cross-country travel takes a toll. It’s not just the 5 to 6 hour flight in coach but also the waiting at the airport. The getting to and from the airport and the stress of making sure that you brought the essentials. Combine these with a time change and it can wear you down. 2-time Super Bowl winning Head Coach Jimmy Johnson once said that ‘fatigue makes cowards of us all’. He’s right. Fatigue leads to cutting corners and mistakes. When you start doing that bad things start to happen that can, in the world of sports, lead to losses. Unnecessary travel can lead to fatigue and hence to losses.