Call Them The Frequent Flier Seattle Sounders

Bill HareCorrespondent ISeptember 14, 2010

Seattle Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez returns home to Costa Rica on Tuesday night for an important international match.
Seattle Sounders defender Leo Gonzalez returns home to Costa Rica on Tuesday night for an important international match.Victor Decolongon/Getty Images

Seattle Sounders Coach Sigi Schmid might well have reacted to the schedule demands of his team by checking out his frequent flier miles.

Seattle’s location alone necessitates travel beyond what other teams endure.  Now couple that with international play beyond the challenging Major League Soccer schedule and the frequent flier factor becomes all the more evident.

Consider that a pair of homecomings and two significant matches await the Seattle Sounders FC on a journey of nearly 8,000 miles this week.

Sounders FC reaches the halfway point of its CONCACAF Champions League group stage campaign when it visits CD Saprissa in San Jose, Costa Rica on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. PT. The match will be carried nationally by Fox Soccer Channel.

Seattle then moves on to the capital of Ohio and a date with the Columbus Crew, leader of the MLS Eastern Conference, on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. PT.

The Sounders seek their first points in the Champions League after falling to CD Marathón of Honduras and CF Monterrey last month. Monterrey leads Group C with six points while Marathón and Saprissa have three each.

In MLS, Seattle (9-9-6, 33 points) is out to strengthen its hold on a playoff position. It is tied with San Jose for the final two playoff wild card slots.  The Sounders are currently   fifth in the Western Conference. After going undefeated in seven games, Sounders FC has one point in its last two outings.

Costa Rica is home to starting left back Leo Gonzalez while Columbus is the city where Sigi Schmid delivered an MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield in 2008, his third season of coaching the Crew. Saturday's match is also a preview of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final, between Seattle and Columbus, to be played October 5 on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field.

The next four matches, two in Champions League and two in MLS, are on the road. Although undefeated in its last five league matches at home, Sounders FC has not won away since July 31. After a brief return home, Seattle plays at Monterrey September 22 and Chicago September 25.

Last week, Sounders FC battled MLS Cup holder Real Salt Lake to a scoreless draw at home. Columbus lost to the L.A. Galaxy, 3-1, but is still in a position to earn an unprecedented third straight Supporters' Shield.

The Crew leads the East by four points and is tied with Real Salt Lake with the second highest point total, trailing the Galaxy by three. It hosts Joe Public of Trinidad and Tobago in a Champions League match on Tuesday.

Seattle owns the only win in the series, having snapped a record 22-game home unbeaten run by the Crew with a 1-0 result on October 3, 2009. Two meetings in the Emerald City have ended in 1-1 draws.

The Sounders community is experiencing delight in another context as advance ticket sales for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final between Seattle Sounders FC and the Columbus Crew have surpassed the record attendance for that event, set 81 years ago. The October 5 match begins at 7 p.m. PT on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field and will be nationally televised by Fox Soccer Channel.

More than 22,000 tickets have already been sold. The record attendance for an Open Cup final is 21,583 in 1929 between New York Hakoah and Madison Kennel Club of St. Louis. The record in the tournament's modern era, which began in 1996 when Major League Soccer teams joined, is 19,164 for the 2000 final between the Chicago Fire and Miami Fusion.