The Thunder (10-4-3) begin a truly heinous stretch of the season this evening. The team has at least 12 games remaining, but only 3 of them will be played at home. In particular, the next 8 days will be a grueling test of the team's depth and fitness. After tonight's game in Rochester they travel to Syracuse for a Saturday night match with the Salty Dogs. Then it's back to Minnesota for Wednesday's huge U.S. Cup powwow with San Jose at The Jimmy. Immediately after that game, the team will travel to Portland to take on the Timbers. And then they finally cap off this nasty stretch at Seattle on August 7th.
Got that? Five games over eights days in three different time zones.
The arduous schedule is particularly worrying given the team's lack of defensive depth. The Thunder have allowed an astoundingly stingy 7 goals so far this season in 17 matches--or .41 goals per game. Dustin Branan has played every minute of every game at central defense and has been the lynchpin of the squad, controlling the middle of the field and winning every ball remotely in his vicinity. Lord knows where this team would be without him.
Can the team really expect Branan to play at least 450 minutes over the next 8 days? What will happen when Branan sits? Who will fill the middle slot in his absence? Should the Thunder consider switching to a four-man backline for a couple of these games?
Guess we'll find out soon enough.
The San Jose game is likely to be a sellout. Buy your tickets now.