Sporting KC’s travel problems may have bigger implications
07/15/2014 7:43 PM
07/15/2014 8:14 PM
An electrical storm along the East Coast turned Sporting Kansas City's latest road trip to Columbus into a 29-hour ordeal that included two canceled flights, a three-hour wait on the airport runway and an overnight stay in Manhattan, N.Y.
Sound enjoyable? Not exactly.
But perhaps it can be productive. The MLS champions — who face the Columbus Crew at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday — hope their experience will lead to a discussion in the upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations.
"I've never been part of something this crazy with so many delays and cancellations," midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. "It's frustrating, and charter flights are probably something we as players and the league as a whole need to look at for the next CBA."
The rules of the collective bargaining agreement allow teams to charter only four flights per season. A round trip would count as half that total.
The CBA expires after this season.
Sporting KC has used a charter flight once this year, when it traveled to Mexico City to play Cruz Azul in the CONCACAF Champions League — a competition that falls outside of MLS parameters and therefore doesn't count toward the total.
The league and players union added the rule to the CBA after David Beckham joined MLS in 2007 and requested charter flights with the LA Galaxy. The league determined that would give the Galaxy an unfair competitive advantage and required teams to fly on regular commercial flights instead.
"I think it's important for players to have travel arrangements that are more secure,”Feilhaber said. "There is always going to be the chance of weather delays and other things you can't control, but we probably need more available charters for teams. It's not to say every problem would be solved by charters, but it obviously cuts out the risk of connecting flights and things we dealt with five times over today."
It may have helped Monday.
Sporting KC players, coaches and staff members were scheduled to leave Montreal on Monday morning, catch a connecting flight in Washington D.C. and arrive in Columbus later that afternoon. A series of weather delays and an ensuing cancellation altered those plans.
The eldest 14 players joined a flight destined for New York, while the remaining players and staff boarded a plane for a connection in Chicago. The Chicago crew arrived in Columbus on Monday night, but the New York group stayed overnight in a hotel after its connection was canceled — but not before the group sat on the runway for three hours trying to wait out the storm.
The players finally arrived in Columbus at 2 p.m. Tuesday to participate in a light training session before playing Columbus at Crew Stadium on Wednesday.
"There's no doubt it's something we're going to have to face when we play," Feilhaber said. "There's no question it makes a difference when you're sleeping very little, waking up early, spending the entire day at the airport and not eating well."
Coach Peter Vermes said the team didn't miss any of its scheduled training time. He had planned to give them the day off Monday anyway.
It wasn't much of a relaxing off-day, though Feilhaber said the team still managed to enjoy it as best as it could. The players updated their Instagram and Twitter accounts throughout the ordeal. Forward Dom Dwyer uploaded a video showing the players engaging in an impromptu soccer game with socks taped together serving as the ball.
"At one point, we got a little delusional to where everything just started being funny and comical," Feilhaber said. "So we had a good time with it.
"But I would still prefer if our flight home is on time."
SPORTING KANSAS CITY AT COLUMBUS CREW
WHEN/WHERE: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Crew Stadium
TV/RADIO: KMCI (Ch. 38); ESPN (1510 AM)
ABOUT SPORTING KANSAS CITY (8-5-5): A victory would move Sporting KC atop the Eastern Conference standings. The club is on a four-match unbeaten streak following its 2-1 win in Montreal on Saturday. That earned goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum his first MLS victory this season. Sporting KC is in the midst of a string of six matches in 21 days, meaning it may elect to rest a starter or two in Wednesday's match.
ABOUT COLUMBUS (4-6-8): The Crew own a six-game winless streak and have won just once since opening the season with three straight victories. Midfielder Bernardo Anor will serve a one-game suspension Wednesday after receiving a pair of yellow cards in the Crew's 4-1 loss to New York on Saturday.
BOTTOM LINE: Sporting Kansas City had no problem dispatching the Crew in May with a 2-0 victory at Sporting Park. The venue changes Wednesday, but Sporting KC has won three straight road matches and is one of only two teams in the Eastern Conference with a winning record away from home.
PREDICTION: Sporting KC 2, Columbus 1