FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It seems as though the rigors of cross-country travel are discussed in exhausting detail each time a professional sports team crisscrosses the United States from the East Coast to the West Coast, or vice versa.
There are the long flights (which can lead to tired legs), the dramatic time difference (which causes tired eyes), and the extended time away from home (which contributes to tired minds).
It can be draining enough dealing with one cross-country trip, and with two MLS teams in Los Angeles, plus clubs in San Jose and Seattle – not to mention expansion teams in both Portland and Vancouver coming next year – long-distance travel for East Coast clubs like the Revolution is part life in MLS.
But the early part of the 2010 schedule threw an extra curveball at the Revs. Just three weeks after opening the season in California against the LA Galaxy on March 27, they’ll return to The Golden State this Saturday night, April 17, for a meeting with the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
“It’s hard,” said veteran defender Cory Gibbs, who spent much of his career playing in Europe where the travel is less extensive. “It’s hard, but you just have to get your head around it and know that we’re going to be back at home for three weeks in a row (after this trip).”
After their upcoming journey to the West Coast, the Revs will indeed be home for an extended stretch. They’ll host the Colorado Rapids (April 24), FC Dallas (May 1) and Chivas USA (May 5) in consecutive games at Gillette Stadium, marking their only three-game home-stand of the 2010 season.
With a string of home games to follow this weekend’s match against the Earthquakes, midfielder Chris Tierney said it’s important to keep the momentum created from the Revolution’s two previous wins going through the visit to San Jose.
“We have a stretch of three home games after this one,” he noted. “Hopefully we can go out to San Jose, get a result and then come home and keep going forward in the games we have here.”
While the extended home-stand following the San Jose trip provides one reason to be positive, there’s another factor in play which could help the Revolution down the road. After this weekend’s visit to California, the Revs will travel to the Pacific time zone just twice more in the 2010 regular season – Seattle to face the Sounders on June 5 and Los Angeles to meet Chivas USA on Sept. 10. That means that half of the Revolution’s West Coast trips will be done just four games into the 30-game schedule.
That could be beneficial later in the year when players typically begin to feel the physical effects of the long, grinding season. While other clubs will be making cross-country trips and adding to their fatigue during the latter months, the Revs will have the luxury of sticking closer to home in crunch time. In fact, they’ll only leave the Eastern time zone once in their last five games of the regular season, and that will be for a visit to Houston and the Central time zone.
Of course, for some of the younger players who are new to professional sports, they’re not yet thinking in that frame of mind. For them, the travel is one of the most exciting aspects of the job.
“I think it’s exciting,” said rookie forward Zack Schilawski, who has already traveled to Florida, North Carolina, California and Washington, D.C. with the Revs. “It’s part of the lifestyle that’s fun. We get to see the country, travel every weekend – that’s kind of what you sign up for. I’m excited about it.”
So what about head coach Steve Nicol? What does he think of the two early trips to the west coast?
The truth is, he doesn’t think about it much at all.
“We’re told where to go, we turn up and hopefully we play well and take three points,” Nicol said. “That’s kind of the way we look at it.”
Gibbs had a similar assessment of the travel, noting that when the whistle blows to start the match, there are no concessions made for the team which is on the road.
“You’ve just got to get the job done,” he said. “All you’ve got to know is that when Saturday comes, for 90-plus minutes we just give it all we have and forget about everything else.”