By Simon Denyer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - With scarcely any sleep, in sweltering heat and after losing their kit, Portsmouth ended a farcical North American pre-season tour on Saturday with a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of Major League Soccer's DC United.
Relegated from the Premiership, in administration and placed under a transfer embargo by England's soccer authorities, Portsmouth could scarcely field a team during their week-long tour of the United States and Canada, relying heavily on youngsters with little or no first-team experience.
But if anyone thought things could not get any worse for the embattled club, they were wrong.
Stranded in Chicago by a lightning storm en route from their last game in Edmonton, the players had just four hours sleep the night before Saturday's game with DC United and with no time to train for three days.
As if that wasn't bad enough, 14 bags went missing en route, including the one containing their kit, meaning they had to play Saturday's game in a strip borrowed from their hosts.
They probably wished they had never arrived at all, after a thrashing at the hands of the MLS strugglers, which included a hat-trick by Australian striker Danny Allsopp.
"Probably that result summed up the tour for us really -- it has been extremely tough," Portsmouth manager Steve Cotterill told reporters.
The journey from Edmonton had taken 27 hours. The flight from England to their first game in San Diego took 42.
"The time it took us to get here, we could have flown to Australia," a furious Cotterill told Reuters after the game.
The newly installed Pompey boss has made no secret of his frustration with the grueling tour, organized before he took over, and that he would have preferred to have remained in England to try and assemble a squad for the approaching season.
Two players went home injured after the Edmonton game, one with a broken leg.
Then goalkeeper Jamie Ashdown, trying to earn a new contract after the departure of David James, went off injured after colliding with a team mate during Saturday's game, to add to Cotterill's woes.
Pompey's weary players soon ran out of steam on the hottest day of the year in Washington, with the temperature reaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius) in the RFK Stadium.
As that wasn't bad enough, three players were sent off, including Portsmouth's Hayden Mullins, whose only offence was to get into an argument with DC United's Santino Quaranta, which Mullins admitted included "some swearing."
Quaranta then seemed to spit at Mullins and both men were shown straight red cards.
Cotterill called the refereeing "ridiculous" and "appalling."
"I can't believe he's been allowed to officiate a game," he said. "I've never seen anything like it in my life."
It has been an incredible fall from grace since Portsmouth won the FA Cup in 2008. On Saturday, the players were just relieved to be going home.
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)