Michael Boxall set a timer when he left his hotel in the Solomon Islands after national team duty with New Zealand on Monday. A mere 46 hours later, he was back with Minnesota United last Thursday.
Boxall played the full 90 minutes of Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union, but hopefully he hasn’t unpacked his bags yet.
The Loons embark on a cross-continent road trip Monday, playing at the Vancouver Whitecaps (12-9-5, third in the West) at 9 p.m. Wednesday and then at the Montreal Impact (10-11-6, seventh in the East) at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
That’s about 5,430 miles and 11 hours of flying in the span of seven days.
Or as coach Adrian Heath called it, a “tough week.”
“Obviously, it doesn’t give you much time for preparation,” Heath said. “It’s very easy for me now to have a go at the schedulers, but really? We’re in Vancouver on a Wednesday night, and we play Saturday in Montreal? It’s ludicrous.
“OK, if you want to have two away games, it should be at least Saturday, Saturday, give the guys some preparation, but for it to be a Wednesday night and Saturday, I don’t get it,” Heath said. “We have too many times where we play week-to-week, surely we could have fit it in between a couple of home games.”
Team captain Francisco Calvo said rest will be the key to the Loons’ success on this tour. Boxall said the team’s mind-set will make the difference, saying, “There’s no excuses for the travel on our attitude and how we’re going to play.”
While United has traditionally been pretty terrible on the road, it is coming off two very good performances away from home, a last-minute loss at the Seattle Sounders on Aug. 20 and the Loons’ first-ever road victory at Chicago on Aug. 26. A win or draw at Vancouver would give the Loons their longest points streak of the season. And United, at 7-14-5 for 10th in the West, needs every point possible in hopes of closing the 11-point gap to playoff contention.
Winger Ethan Finlay said a crucial excursion like this will challenge the team in a good way.
“I think it’s an important time for Adrian, the staff, Manny [Lagos, sporting director] and management to say, ‘What is this team made of? What is our depth? And who wants to be around?’” Finlay said. “Because some guys who maybe haven’t had the opportunity as of late are going to get an opportunity, and we need those guys to step up. I’m excited for it. I think road trips kind of bring guys together.
“This team actually kind of relishes the moments on the road a little bit now.”