“It’s going to be a tough week for us,” Fredy Montero said on Monday of the arduous road ahead.
The Sounders will take on an itinerary this week that will see them travel 11,150 round trip air miles to play against Caledonia AIA in the CONCACAF Champions League on Thursday and FC Dallas in MLS league play on Sunday. But as trying as that travel might be, Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid need not worry with team administrative director Grant Clark handling the trip.
This trip in particular is no mere MLS road trip. Even as one of the most travelled clubs in the league during the regular season schedule, the Sounders have the road routine pretty well covered. CONCACAF Champions League travel is a whole different beast altogether.
However, the trips to Mexico and Honduras and Panama and El Salvador and all places in between in the CONCACAF region have practically become part of the routine for the Sounders. Now in their third straight endeavor in the tournament, they have played nine away matches in stadiums of varying conditions in cities where the concerns expand much farther than finding the nearest coffee shop.
“I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve had some good team administrators,” Schmid said. “Grant is good at what he does. He’s very sharp, he’s very organized and he’s got a quick wit.”
Clark and his staff arrange everything on the road, from busses and airlines to hotels and meals and all else in between. That includes making sure each player and staff included in the travel party has current visas and passports to get in and out of the countries. Horror stories are often repeated of players leaving documentation behind or even not having it updated. Such was the case with Metapan from El Salvador last week when they faced the LA Galaxy and had four players left behind in El Salvador because of paperwork issues.
All these added elements mean Clark begins work on travel arrangements much earlier for CONCACAF trips than MLS trips because of the variables involved.
How early, you ask?
“Not early enough,” Clark said. “As soon as we get the schedule, we make sure that it’s all confirmed and we talk to our travel agent who starts looking at options for us.”
If Schmid seems comfortable with Clark handling the team’s administrative duties, it’s for good reason. Clark, who also sits on the bench with the coaches during matches, played for Schmid at UCLA, where he was a captain and three-time recipient of the team’s Most Inspirational Player honor.
He also has several years of coaching experience and holds a USSF ‘A’ license and held a similar role with the San Jose Clash and Earthquakes from 1995-1999.
“Because of Grant’s involvement in the game as a player and as a coach, he’s able to anticipate a lot of issues and deal with a lot of questions and I don’t have to deal with them,” Schmid said. “He thinks likes a coach and that’s really important.”
Clark helps properly navigate the road trips for the Sounders and they finally breathe a sigh of relief when they get to the airport for their return trip and they hear the final instructions of the trip from Clark.
“Let’s go home!”