Travel plans a pesky problem

New England flight fixer makes sure club arrives in one piece

VANCOUVER, B.C. – From the moment the 2011 MLS schedule landed on his desk, New England Revolution soccer operations manager Nick Kropelin knew this midweek trip to Vancouver would create a few logistical headaches.

Forget about the potential pitfalls presented by the finicky weather in Boston at this time of year or the particular placement of this match between two home games. The fundamental problem for this voyage is far simpler.

“For us, it's just challenging getting from Boston to Vancouver geographically,” Kropelin told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday. “It's not an easy flight. It's not something that you can just book for 30 people, have it go direct and be a perfect flight.”

The Revs take on the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday at 10 pm ET (Direct Kick, online at MatchDay Live).

The scenario isn't an ideal one for someone who wants every trip to unfold without a hitch. Kropelin plans every detail of every trip – the flights, the hotels, the local transportation methods and the meals – meticulously. He works through contingency plans on a regular basis to ensure a seamless transition in case the slated itinerary must change.

All of that preparation laid the groundwork for Monday's one-stop excursion to Vancouver. It also provided the saving grace when the weather in Boston turned foul enough to throw a wrench into the Revolution's travel plans.

Mother Nature delayed the travel party's flight to Dallas – the connecting hub for this particular trip due to a lack of more suitable and viable choices – long enough to place the connection to Vancouver in significant danger. It is the type of nightmare scenario that can give even a seasoned planner like Kropelin fits.

“It's 100 times worse [to change flights at the last minute],” Kropelin said. “If your one flight gets changed and you need to rebook people, there's no flight in the world that you're going to be able to rebook for 30 people. You're going to get 10 people here, six people there and five people elsewhere. It's just a disaster.”

Kropelin worked quickly with American Airlines representatives in Boston and Dallas and local contacts in Dallas to sort through alternative options in case the Revs couldn't make it to Vancouver on Monday night.

“We put some plans together and we did as much work on them as we could,” Kropelin said. “If something needed to change, we could pull the switch and it would be changed.”

Fortunately for Kropelin and the rest of the Revolution travelers, the circumstances did not dictate the implementation of those contingency plans or an unexpected stay in Dallas. Quick work by all parties involved in both cities ensured the Revs made their scheduled flight to Vancouver.

The entire episode served as yet another interesting chapter in Kropelin's career. As he enters his fourth year as the soccer operations point man – an expansive gig that also includes coordinating with visiting referees and teams to meet their needs and managing field-level game day operations at Gillette Stadium – for the Revs, he has seen and handled his fair share of travel peculiarities.

In the end, Kropelin's primary goal remains the same on every trip: making the journey as easy as possible in order to give the Revs the best chance to perform on the field.

“There is certainly a sense of satisfaction when you get everyone there,” Kropelin said. “It's better when we get the three points and we're going back.”