Sandy • Important playoff seeding is at stake, so Real Salt Lake has arranged for a private plane to ferry two of its best players to its Major League Soccer game in Seattle on Wednesday night, barely 24 hours after they suit up for the U.S. national team in a crucial World Cup qualifier in Kansas City, Kan.
But get this:
It’s giving its opponent a ride, too.
Seattle’s Eddie Johnson will join RSL’s Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando on the flight aboard team co-owner Dell Loy Hansen’s private jet, team officials said. The flight will leave right after the Americans play Guatemala on Tuesday night, assuring the players get to Seattle in plenty of time for RSL to meet Johnson and the Sounders at CenturyLink Field on Wednesday night.
“We’re doing Seattle a big solid, I think,” coach Jason Kreis said. “Hopefully, the good karma will come back to us.”
It’s hard to imagine such an arrangement in any other major professional sport, especially with the stakes so high.
Johnson is the Sounders’ leading scorer with 14 goals and two assists this season, and his team is battling RSL for playoff position in one of the last regular-season games of the year. Both teams hope to avoid a new wild-card game that would make it even more difficult to reach the MLS Cup championship game, and RSL can do that with a victory against the Sounders.
But general manager Garth Lagerwey echoed Kreis in saying it was simply “the right thing to do” to allow Johnson on their flight.
“I would imagine what goes around comes around,” Lagerwey said.
Kreis acknowledged that the idea made him a little uncomfortable, at first.
“Your initial response is, ‘I don’t know if this is such a good idea, to be helping our opponent,’” Kreis said. “But you have to believe they would do that same if they were in our shoes. Ultimately we want the best game possible, which means the best players available.”
Of course, there is a little caveat here.
Neither Rimando nor Beckerman is expected to play much for the U.S. against the Guatemalans, after not playing at all in a 2-1 victory at Antigua and Barbuda last week. So they figure to be fresh and ready to play for RSL against the Sounders.
But Johnson was a star for the Americans against Antigua and Barbuda, scoring both goals and setting himself up for an encore opportunity against the Guatemalans. In other words, Kreis is hoping the striker plays 90 minutes again, so he’s too worn out to play for the Sounders the next night against RSL
“Absolutely,” Kreis said. “I hope there’s a few extra minutes to play, as well.”
Real Salt Lake at Seattle
P Wednesday, 8 p.m.
TV • NBC Sports Network, 9 p.m., CW30 (delayed)