I'm sure most of us have devoured everything from MLS, Doug Roberson (AJC), Dirty South and other sports/soccer sites about this topic but I have no doubt there's more to talk about as we all have strong opinions about our team. With that said I'll state the obvious. This first International Break is "borrowing" four of our players: Josef Martinez (Venezuela), Miguel Almiron (Paraguay), Carlos Carmona (Chile) and Kenwyne Jones (Trinidad & Tobago). 3 of them are starters and compose the core of our attack.
The mere travel logistics breakdown like this. If they are pegged to start then they could see up to 180 or more minutes in a very short next week with all matches scheduled for Thursday, March 23 and Tuesday, March 28. Add in the travel from the ATL to their home nation and back and then traveling to Seattle and well, the mere logistics begin to stack up against them. I googled the mileage for the longest round trip from Atlanta and the dubious distinction goes to Miguel at an astounding 8866 miles. Throw in any flights while he's there and it he's gone plaid (reference Space Balls). Now throw in a round trip to Seattle on Friday, March 31st at a mere 4360 miles for everyone on the team and anyone who's traveled internationally knows this is beyond a kick in the nuts. This is absolutely punitive and we aren't even looking at the mileage for the next 3 away matches after that (Toronto roundtrip 1488 miles, Montreal roundtrip 1998 miles and Salt Lake roundtrip 3178 miles). Ok so I did a quick google for those numbers too but to the point, Miguel will have traveled almost 20,000 miles if not more by the time they come home from the 4 match road trip! That's almost an entire trip around the world (24,901 miles) in a month. Welcome to the MLS guys.
The MLS did us no favors with this schedule but there is a silver lining. Seattle has 5 starting players selected for national team duties: two forwards (Dempsey & Morris), midfielder Lodeiro (hate him when he's against you, love him if he's playing for you) and two defenders (Torres & Jones). So to say we're going to face a full strength squad is not entirely true. The travel will drastically effect them too for this match. So the question for both coaches is who starts?
If you're asking me (and I am), if I was coach I would play the bench players I think I'm going to have to rely on later in the season. The season is still young and it's a long season. This makes it a great opportunity to see what your bench can bring and get them critical experience playing with each other that could have big time ramifications later in the season. Not only that but I have faith in our bench players! But they need time to learn how to play together and create an on-field identity too. Playing any of the national team players is too large of a risk for injury. These players have the biggest impact to the performance of the team and the season. It's just too much to risk on a single early season away match. I bet Seattle is going to make a play for a similar strategy and it would behoove Tata to do the same. The bench lineups will set up the regular starters with a badly needed rest when they face the rest of the road trip in the following weeks. It will also pay off to see who else from the bench needs to get some match experience if the starting bench players selected do not perform adequately. It will also give Tata some critical insight to how he might have to adjust strategy and formation to take advantage of their strengths and mitigate their weaknesses.
This is all to say, it doesn't matter if we lose. Everyone is expecting us to lose this one. If we lose a tight one then everyone will say tough match guys. If we tie and that's what I seriously think is going happen, then we get a huge away point! We shock a lot of folks and unfortunately we will most definitely get all other team's attention. If we win then it's all gravy and we legitimately become title contenders and all our dreams come true.
Let the arrows fly!