The Sounders’ first-round MLS playoff series will start in Seattle and conclude in Houston, and normally that’s an advantage for the Dynamo.
It’s a two-game aggregate score series, so after playing on the road, Houston will go into the second game knowing exactly what it needs to do goal-wise to advance. And it will have the advantage of getting to do it on its home pitch.
That’s the general rule.
However, in this specific case, it seems to me that Houston is paying quite a price for that advantage. Remember, the Dynamo played this afternoon in Los Angeles. Now rather than fly two time zones east to Houston, fit in a couple of days of practice, and then fly two time zones west — and up — to Seattle for the opener on Thursday, the team has decided to stay extend its West Coast trip, and train in LA for a couple of days before heading up. (Here’s a look at Houston’s schedule challenges from MLSnet. And there are a couple of more links in the Comments section below.)
The Sounders, meanwhile, played Saturday, had today off, return to practice Monday, and don’t really have much else on their agenda but to sleep in their own beds and await for the Dynamo to show up at Qwest on Thursday.
So who got the advantage with that?
“It’s definitely not disadvantageous for us because they have to travel back and then travel out here, so that messes with their time a little bit,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s that time of the year when it’s the playoffs and it’s sort of like players suck it up and move on. If you have to fly back and train on the same day, then it’s like ‘Let’s get this done because we are in the playoffs.’ ‘If we have to get up early to fly then just take care of it because it’s the playoffs.’ So I think players sort of have that attitude this time of year.”
The situation doesn’t really reverse for the second game, because the MLS schedules its first round games in increments of light years, and the Sounders shouldn’t have to rush much to get to Houston in time for the Nov. 8 deciding game.
Schmid, by the way, said he likes the aggregate-score format.
“I’m a guy who would probably like home and home all the way through the MLS Championship, including the championship game,” he said. “We have a one-off championship; which I know they do in the Champions League as well, and of course they do it in American football. But the other sports — basketball, baseball, hockey — they all basically play a home-and-home. I think our sport is still young enough in this country where maybe a home-and-home in the finals makes sense and do it that way. I’m definitely not an opponent of the home-and-home.”