In their first two seasons in Major League Soccer, the Sounders FC traveled more miles than any other team in the league.
However, the frequent flyer miles haven’t been the only perk. Seattle actually plays well away from Qwest Field, with an 11-12-10 record on the road. Traveling far doesn’t hamper them either - their draw in Philadelphia on Saturday moves them to 6-5-2 all-time in the Eastern time zone.
A stretch of four out of five matches on the road may be daunting to some teams, but the Sounders embrace the challenge of a road match.
“We just approach home games and road games with the same mentality,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “We want to go out there and win. We don’t go out on the road and hope we can keep it tight and hope we can sneak out a win and hope we can get out of here 1-0.”
Through the 2009 and 2010 seasons, only the LA Galaxy had a better road record than the Sounders and Seattle’s 41 points in those two seasons was 10 points better than the third highest total in the Western Conference, attributing a lot to their early success.
Part of that, Schmid says, owes to the tactics of the home team.
“The team that’s at home, hopefully there is a little more pressure on them to carry the game and take the game to us,” he said. “From that standpoint, sometimes that opens up spaces to counter attack and I think we are a pretty good counter attacking team when those opportunities present themselves.”
Playing consecutive road games doesn’t hurt the Sounders either. They are 4-2-1 in the second and third games of extended road swings. This season they will play away from Qwest Field for consecutive matches five times and they are in the midst of the first such case now with their next match coming on the road against the Colorado Rapids.
While much of that success can be credited to tactics and strategies, the team is also quick to point to their traveling support.
“Usually we have very good away support,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “We’re taking a couple hundred people who are extremely vocal for us on the road. That makes a big difference. Obviously we have that pride that we want to go out and show for them as well.”
The supporters have traveled well in 2011 already, with sections numbering over 200 in both New York and San Jose and another large group at PPL Park on Saturday. Like at Qwest Field, the team makes a point to acknowledge their supporters on each road trip.
“We definitely appreciate it and it’s something we’re very proud of as a club to know that our fans travel better than any fans in the league because they travel to all of the games. It’s not like they travel to just some of the games,” Schmid said. “It’s always great when you look up there and you see a bunch of green and you see the scarves and you hear the support and you hear the singing that lets you know that you’re not here alone.”
After facing Colorado on the road on Friday, the Sounders will return home to face Toronto FC on April 30. The week after that will see the Sounders travel across the country for a match against DC United on Wednesday, May 4, and then to Columbus to face the Crew on Saturday, May 7.