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.
Most people have come to terms with the reality that the world is a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week place. There are some remnants of the old school way of thinking such as evening newscasts, office hours and last call. The world of sports, especially soccer, has thrown out the idea of office hours.
During the fall or spring you can almost watch soccer for 24 hours a day. From Australia’s A-League to the German Bundesliga to the Barclay’s Premier League in England to MLS in North America. Soccer can be found either on TV or online. All live and in HD. Just follow the sun and you’ll find soccer.
You can do it from anywhere but it’s probably best to attempt this is from the West Coast of North America. If you start by watching an A-League game on a Friday night then snooze for a few hours. Get up before the sun for matches in the Netherlands, Germany and England and that should to take you until noon Pacific Coast time. At that point the MLS will take over for the rest of the day and end you’ll the day with a west coast game either in Seattle, Portland, San Jose or Los Angeles.
It’s a commitment but so is 90 minutes on the pitch.