SEATTLE, Wash. — Everything about Brad Evans said fatigue. His coach wasn’t much better. Had Jurgen Klinsmann played 90-plus minutes on Friday, he would have looked just as deflated. Still, when the duo met the media on Saturday, popping into the CenturyLink press box during halftime of the Sounders-Whitecaps, it was clear each was worn out.
On Sunday, as the U.S. Men’s National Team practiced for the first time since arriving in Seattle, Evans and Klinsmann looked more rested. Evans’ eyes had recovered after a real night’s sleep, while the team’s head coach was spry at times as he went around the venue’s temporary surface.
Fatigue, however, was still a topic of conversation.
“[A] really long travel day,” was how goalkeeper Tim Howard described Saturday, his slightly rueful expression betraying his understated words.
“Being in Kingston, it’s hard to get out,” Howard said, discussing the environment in Jamaica that’ve compound the team’s issues. “It’s really stuffy. To be able to be in fresh air and be in a great city which feel like is home to us, it’s been good.”
Flying from Kingston to Seattle, the national team was travelling for over nine hours, their in-plane naps passing time while offering little recovery. As a result, the team was left to themselves after arriving on Saturday, a handful of players taking in the match while most ate and rested.
The team was allowed to sleep in on Sunday before going through a gym workout ahead of their late afternoon training.
“Hopefully today it will be a little bit lighter, because it was a nine-hour trip,” veteran DaMarcus Beasley said, asked about the effect of the team’s schedule and travel. “[W]e’ll be ready to go on Tuesday.”
For a team that’s been traveling, training together for two weeks, a small change in routine is unlikely to make a difference. But the situation does underscore one of the concerns about playing matches on the West Coast.
“It’s not very often that we can come to the northwest, with all the European guys,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann told the collected media on Saturday. “It’s always a challenge during a normal season for the Europeans to go all the way to the West Coast because of the nine-hour time difference.”
That’s in addition to the travel itself, but with players out of season, U.S. Soccer shouldn’t have have to deal with those issues – concerned that arise from the truncated nature of international breaks. But in the players’ fatigue, you see the Jamaica-to-Seattle turnaround brought some of those factors back into play.
You can’t help but ask if it’s worth it. That’s potentially an unfair question for Seattle, but with a series of other host sights that would have cut travel in half, why did U.S. Soccer schedule Seattle after Jamaica? With a shorter trip, Saturday could have turned into a true recovery day.
For Klinsmann, there was obvious benefits that made Seattle a sought-after host site.
“The atmosphere is always tremendous here,” Klinsmann explained. “The support from the fans for their team is outstanding. It’s one of the hotbeds here in the United States, and we want to enjoy that … We kind of wanted it badly, and we’re looking forward to it.”
All of which is undeniable, and the fatigue on Evans’ face and in Howard’s response will likely be alleviated by Tuesday. Still, the long flight across a continent seems like an unnecessary level of difficulty, one the team has brought upon itself.
If a bad, temporary sod pitch gets the forecasted rain on Tuesday, will the U.S.’s fatigue come through? Or, more readily, will it be an equalizing factor for Panama, who played at home last Friday?
It’s understandable U.S. Soccer wanted to leverage Seattle’s atmosphere. Another date may have been better, though.