Long journey can't sour experience for Umaña

Costa Rican international goes the extra mile for Tico trip

Umana DL

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CARSON, Calif. – Flying from Toronto to Paraguay is no easy task.

The adventure begins with a 1,200-mile trip to Miami. After a quick layover in the sunny coastal city, it’s off to San Jose, Costa Rica, for an 1,100-mile trip and a change in time zone. The international escapade comes to a close with a final seven-hour flight from Costa Rica to Paraguay for another 3,000 miles and a jump of two time zones.

Final tally: 5,300 miles and more than 15 hours in the air.

Sound daunting? Do it all in fewer than five days and you’d have some idea of how Chivas USA centerback Michael Umana spent his time last week.

The Costa Rican international was called into camp for his national team’s friendly against Paraguay last Wednesday, and endured a grueling trip across two continents to make an appearance in his side’s 2-0 loss to the Paraguayans.

“It’s tiring to play these midweek international games,” Umaña told MLSsoccer.com after practice on Tuesday. “I had to fly from Toronto to Costa Rica to Paraguay, then play a game, and then fly back to Los Angeles.

"It was a tough trip, but I tried to rest as much as I could, and I think I was able to stay fresh. There’s no way around it really; I’m just glad that I was able to play in these games.”

Umaña’s experience is not an unusual one. Many players who represent their national team must are often required to make long trips in the middle of their club seasons to compete in international friendlies, qualifiers and tournaments.

“It’s just something you have to deal with,” defender Jonathan Bornstein said. “Throughout the year, guys are playing games over in other countries. It does give you a little bit of wear and tear on the body, but it’s what you take as a player.”

Bornstein is no stranger to these long trips. The left back has made numerous overseas journeys to play for the US National Team in recent years and has grown accustomed to the rigors of such travel.

“I’ve gotten better at it,” he said. “I’ve learned how to recover quickly. As I’ve gotten older, it’s about hydrating right, and doing the little things off the field so that you’re ready to play on the field.”

Umaña insists that while such international matches can be difficult on the body, he relishes each and every chance to appear for his national team and has no problem balancing his commitments to both the Ticos and to Chivas USA.

“These games are important for the progress of the soccer in our country and I hope we can continue to move forward,” Umaña said. “It’s hard to change mindsets as you travel, but I have experience at this and I feel like I can do it pretty well. I’m honored to play for my national team and to serve as part of Chivas USA at the same time. I hope I can continue to do both.”