With travel to Canada restricted and travel across multiple time zones made all but impossible by a league prohibition on overnight road trips, Major League Soccer’s revised regular-season schedule is more a series of compromises than a fair test of class.
The Vancouver Whitecaps, for example, have relocated to Portland, where they will play a “home” game in Providence Park against the Timbers, the team that regularly calls that stadium home. The Philadelphia Union hasn’t traveled farther than 470 miles in the last six weeks — yet that’s twice as far as the longest trip the New York Red Bulls or New York City FC have made.
That brings us to LAFC and the Galaxy. LAFC, which made two trips to Salt Lake City in the last month to play one game, will make its second visit to Seattle in less than three weeks Friday to play the Sounders. The Galaxy, who have spent just 15 hours outside California in the last two months, again will be home to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
And that’s not even the craziest thing about the schedule as this weekend’s games mark the start of a sprint to the finish line, one that will see LAFC play 12 times in 51 days and the Galaxy, 13 in 50 days.
“When there’s so much going on what I try to get across to the team is just to focus on what we can control,” coach Bob Bradley said. “And scheduling isn’t something we control. So just wait for the schedule to come out, make sure everyone understands that we’ve got to be continuing to move ourselves forward as a team and leave it at that.
“There’s enough to deal with already.”
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Travel has not been kind to LAFC (4-4-3), which had its first game with Real Salt Lake canceled by a league-wide protest against social injustice, and hasn’t won away from home since MLS resumed play in its home markets last month. The Sounders (5-2-3) cruised to a 3-1 victory in LAFC’s first trip to Seattle, part of a slump that saw Bradley’s team lose four of five games.
LAFC stopped that slide with a comfortable win over Portland on Sunday, when Eduard Atuesta played for the first time since injuring his right foot in July. Atuesta, who made a 10-minute cameo, could make another late second-half appearance Friday, but Bradley said the midfielder was not fit enough to start.
LAFC also is monitoring the air quality in Seattle. The Mariners’ three-game baseball series with the Padres this weekend was moved to San Diego because of unhealthful conditions resulting from the wildfires in Washington state.
The Galaxy (4-3-3), which hasn’t lost since returning from the MLS Is Back tournament in July and hasn’t allowed a goal in nearly three weeks, is even stronger now that Javier “Chicharito” Hernández has returned after suffering a torn calf. He and Jonathan dos Santos, who is coming back from hernia surgery, both played 33 minutes off the bench and could see more playing time Saturday.
“They are getting better. They are ready for more minutes,“ coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto said. But with the Galaxy playing three times in eight days, Schelotto said he will continue to bring both players along slowly.