CHESTER, Pa.– The Philadelphia Union’s journey back and forth from Vancouver was an odyssey that lasted all day Thursday and Sunday.
The Union took 10 hours to get out to Vancouver through commercial flights, while they woke up at 4:45 a.m. Pacific Time on Sunday to start a journey back to Philadelphia, via Toronto, that didn’t bring the team back home until 8 p.m. Eastern Time.
Vancouver is a beautiful city but we should be flying back to Philly tonight on a red eye chartered flight to get proper rest for a mid week game & another next Saturday. 🙄
— Alejandro Bedoya (@AleBedoya17) April 28, 2019
Captain and midfielder Alejandro Bedoya was one of the vocal critics of the trip, and he has been critical of league’s policy which allows four charter flights per team per year.
“For me, it’s just so frustrating,” Bedoya said. “This is not a Philly issue, this is a league wide issue. I’m speaking on behalf of all the players in the league. I put that out there and I got messages from players on all different teams laughing with me and telling me I’m so right.”
Bedoya cited player performance and recovery as one of the main reasons why charters are necessary in Major League Soccer.
“We’re at a time where I think we need to take the training wheels off,” Bedoya said. “The league has moved on so far.”
“For me, it’s more about getting proper rest and recovery,” Bedoya said. “It’s just a waste of a day on Sunday to spend a whole day in airports and on planes when we have a midweek game.”
The issue became specific to the Union this weekend because they have a Wednesday home game against FC Cincinnati that they needed to prepare for.
Instead of taking a charter back from Vancouver on Saturday night, the club spent all day Sunday traveling and couldn’t start the full recovery process until Monday.
“It’s also about getting back home quicker so you can start your recovery quicker,” Bedoya said. “A red eye from Vancouver, we would have been home at 7-8 in the morning in your bed laying down or at least getting some breakfast instead of waking up at 4:45 in the morning. I didn’t get home until 8:30 at night. That’s a waste of recovery day.”
That wasn’t the first time the Union experienced issues with the lack of charter flights, and Bedoya pointed out a similar situation last May coming home from a game in Montreal.
“It’s gotta change,” Bedoya said. “I remember last year we were away at Montreal and that was also an early kickoff, maybe even earlier, and that’s a shorter distance to get back home and the next day was Mother’s Day. We played on a Saturday and we could have been home that evening, had dinner, been with the family and get rest.”
Bedoya said around 10 Union players complained about lower back issues from being stuffed into economy seats coming back from Vancouver.
“These charter flights that are available, we’ve been fortunate enough to use them for the (U.S.) national team,” Bedoya said. “These are like first-class type seating. You’re going to be able stretch out. You’re going to be able to get your back some rest. I think there were about 10 guys complaining about lower back issues after playing on turf and sitting in those types of seats. It puts so much stress on your body.”
“You saw that picture of my legs,” Bedoya said. “You should’ve seen how Jack (Elliott) was sitting and the person reclining on him. It’s just not good for your body.”
Should’ve flown out of Vancouver last night after early kickoff.
Instead, we wake up at 4:45 am, spend all day in airports (connect in Toronto) & on airplanes w/ no legroom cross country, and just finally landed back in Philly.
What a great recovery day. 🤦♂️#MLStravel pic.twitter.com/iiyU81wVf0
— Alejandro Bedoya (@AleBedoya17) April 28, 2019
With negotiations for the new Collective Bargaining Agreement coming up, Bedoya said the charter flight issue is one he’s going to voice his opinion on.
“I’m going to be a part of it,” Bedoya said. “I’m going to voice my opinions and what I think. We’re united. We’re having meetings here and there so that’s good. For me, this is one of the crucial things we need to get to the next level.”
“You have teams coming in with $200 million buying in,” Bedoya said. “We all know the revenue is increasing. We all know the league is progressing. They can say charter flights, the money that goes into that is maybe taken out of the salary cap money, but I think that’s BS because there have to be ways that some of these owners who already own charters from their NFL teams can get something together or package deals.”
In order for progress to be made, the league has to increase the number of charter flights available to teams, but Bedoya also mentioned short trips could be managed on commercial flights.
“I think it’s respectable that I don’t have to fly charter from here to Boston,” Bedoya said. “I can deal with a commercial flight. I’m talking about cross-country. Definite charter flights. To increase the quality of play, to optimize performance and recovery, this is stuff that is crucial in today’s game.”
But in order for MLS to reach the level its owners and players want it to be, eventually the flight issue has to be resolved.
“I think eventually every flight in this league should be a charter if you want to be an elite league,” Bedoya said.