Schedule complaints are part and parcel amongst Major League Soccer fans. Playing over the FIFA International Data recently stoked the ire around this issue; top players missing and the resulting boring games. Those complaints are certainly valid, but my problem is with Crew SC's schedule. MLS has played five weeks of the schedule. Columbus has played three games.
Those three games are reflected in the schedule, a schedule that has impeded the team from getting into a cadence as they get into the season.
- Week One: at Houston
- Week Two: Hosting Toronto
- Week Three: Off
- Week Four (FIFA International Date): Hosting New York Red Bulls (14 days)
- Week Five: Off
- Week Six: at Vancouver on Wednesday (11 days), at Boston on Saturday (3 days)
How does Crew SC hope to establish a rhythm? They have had 7 days, 14 days, 11 days, and 3 days between games by Saturday. The normal practice and off days training schedule is out the window. Historically, Crew SC coaches have given a weekend off when the team gets a break in the schedule, but Crew SC has had two in five weeks. The team has to stay sharp with the lack of game time, so that means a jumbled practice schedule.
Sandwiched between two off weeks, Crew SC played New York on a FIFA International Date. Columbus was was missing the entire left side of the team due to international duty. As noted above, they had off dates on weekend before or after of that game. Could the schedule makers look to other options rather than loading up the league schedule when many of their premier talents were going to be gone? Columbus certainly missed Justin Meram and Waylon Francis in the loss to New York, but instead they practiced with Crew SC over the weekends before and after they missed the game against the Red Bulls.
Columbus would have had to travel to Vancouver sometime this year to cater to the unbalanced schedule between the conferences, so there was always going to be a long trip. On the positive, this one is after a long layoff and gives the Whitecaps short rest. So Crew SC makes that 2,000 mile trip today for the game in Vancouver on Wednesday at 10 pm. ET.
The negative is a big one, the team then wakes up early on Thursday morning, hops back on a plane, and travels 2,500 miles for a trip to Boston 48 hours before their early Saturday game against the New England Revolution. Total road trip to Vancouver and on to Boston? Nearly 10 hours on a plane and over 4,500 miles in 72 hours. There likely will be plenty of dead legs by the time Columbus plays the Revolution on Saturday at 3:00 pm ET.
This trip prompts plenty of questions, but few answers. Could New York have played on March 21st or April 4th? Could the league have switched Vancouver's game with Los Angeles to Wednesday to provide Crew SC decent travel schedule? Could New England have hosted Columbus on a different weekend? Perhaps MLS could have juggled the schedule, but the league didn't and Columbus will suffer the consequences of short turnarounds and what amounts to two coast to coast road trips in a matter of days.