In his latest entry for Goal.com, the Vancouver Whitecaps center back provides an inside look at the daily grind of an MLS team.
I'm sitting on the plane to Portland, thinking about how I haven't even had a chance to feel tired, or to reflect on the loss we had to Toronto in the Amway Canadian Cup final.
In a way, it's a positive to have the opportunity to put that disappointment behind us quickly in Portland, but being back on the road again so soon is tough. It's definitely something I've had to get used to over the past year and a half since I started playing in MLS. For previous years in England, it was a three- or four-hour charter bus ride at most – usually the day before the game – where you could have a nap, watch a movie or have something to eat and you'd be at your destination.
That part is much more demanding in MLS – although this year has been a little better because the league has split into the East and West conferences, so we don't have to travel over to the East as much.
This past week has been quite the schedule for us! Let me break it down.
Travel to Toronto all day; land; a pool session when we get to the hotel; late dinner; bed.
Training at midday, after breakfast; dinner; team meeting.
Light day at the hotel resting; night game; return to hotel at 11pm for a late, late dinner; bed (but can't get to sleep because I'm still wired from the game – I manage four hours in the end).
Breakfast; flight back to Vancouver (thankfully, the trip is a direct flight – most have a stop, making the travel day around 13 hours total); arrive back in Vancouver to have dinner, give your loved one a hug and go to bed.
Wake up and leave comfy bed to go back to airport to catch a flight to Portland; land and travel to the hotel; change into practice gear and train for an hour to get legs moving again; late dinner; bed.
Rest at the hotel; night game; return to hotel at 11pm for another late, late dinner; try again to sleep (you'd think this would be easy at this point, but I still can't manage it). Sunday: wake up and travel back to Vancouver.
All in a weeks work!
I definitely don't tell you this for you to feel sorry for my awesome life. But many people don't appreciate how much work we put in on a given week. Travel takes it's toll in general, but throw in three 90-minute games on top of that in a seven-day period, and you can see how the guys might be a bit tired or not performing their best on certain days. Last week, I talked about how important having a deep squad is – this is another reason why.
After the Portland game, we don't have a game for two weeks, so I'm looking forward to getting some rest!
Now I have a chance to reflect properly on the Cup loss to Toronto. In short, it was tough.
After a 1-1 draw in the first leg at home, we knew we had to come and score at least a goal to take the cup home. Toronto hasnt been performing well in the league this season, but its cup run over the past few seasons has been great. It's interesting how teams can seem to shift their confidence when it comes to different situations.
Knowing they are a different team in the cup, we planned on making sure that we were ready to come out and compete. But, for some reason, we just couldn't get out of the gates. We seemed flat, and nothing was working. Credit to Toronto, and the way they disrupted our rhythm, but nothing was working for us. There were a few bad tackles and the game got out of hand at points. The ref ended up giving two players red cards and we were down to a 10 vs. 10 game. From that point on, Toronto did what it had to do, getting behind the ball and counterattacking us, then scoring the goal to beat us 2-1 overall and win the Canadian Cup. Again.
It was really disappointing to see us perform so poorly. There are only so many times in your career that you get the opportunity to go and win things – be it leagues or cups – so for us to be so flat and not recognize the opportunity that was in front of us was the biggest letdown for me. Just like anything else in life, you can't expect things to just be handed to you – you have to do what's necessary to achieve success, and we didn't do what was necessary. It's a pretty simple formula when it all comes down to it.
Either way, it's always a learning experience, and learning is the only way to get better. So it's onwards and upwards from here.
I really enjoy those atmospheres though. For me that's what soccer is about. When you go into a heated environment, just your team against 20,000 fans, and you just have to stick together and fight it out.
I've been in those situations with the USMNT, where we've been up against the likes of Mexico, El Salvador, and Honduras in World Cup qualifiers. You'll look around and there isn't one person in the stands cheering for you, so you look to your teammates and coaches to come together and see out a result.
It's been said that teams become your second family, and it's during times like that where you really feel when your team has your back. Those tougher times are a great opportunity for a team to grow together and build a foundation for success.
Till next time, keep Rising and Shining.