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Soon We Might Even Talk About The Football...

Covid reports, not football, dominating MLS-is-Back tournament news

MLS: Philadelphia Union Travel to Orlando
Philadelphia Union defender Jack Elliott typifies the life of an MLS player these days, travelling to Orlando for the MLS-is-Back tournament.
Handout Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

It would be wonderful to get back to talking about football...

But all we hear is Covid, Covid, Covid...

A natural phenomenon given what’s happened to FC Dallas post-arrival in Florida. As if players, coaches and administrators weren’t yet enough concerned, the trials and tribulations experienced by the Texan club has heightened awareness and increased anxiety. So much so that no-one has barely cast a thought towards footballing matters when the tournament begins, Wednesday.

Clearly MLS needs to understand what went wrong with the Dallas arrival and accommodation arrangements. Nine players and one of their coaching staff testing positive presents a horrible backdrop.

One may also be excused for wondering why on earth sporting organizations, including MLS have decided to host their tournaments in Florida, one of the worst-hit states of the World’s worst-hit country.

Yesterday according to ABC News, Florida confirmed 200,111 cases, an increase on the previous day’s total of 10,059. Orange County (Orlando) where the MLS family are gathered reported 760 new cases and a positivity testing rate of 14.2%, a daily high.

Also yesterday morning, Toronto FC announced they would be postponing their travel to Orlando after a member of their travel party reported to the team medical staff they were “experiencing symptoms.”

Toronto did not travel as scheduled, the aircraft that was to carry the party departed it’s re-positioning flight on-schedule, but reportedly was turned around and landed in Atlanta. According to The Athletic’s Joshua Kloke, the earliest TFC can now travel to Orlando is tomorrow (Monday).

This brings Toronto into contravention of MLS rules which mandated that clubs must arrive in Orlando a week prior to their first scheduled match, which for Toronto is July 10 against DC United. It would be unreasonable to see any sanction being handed down under the circumstances.

According to WakingTheDead.com, Greg Vanney said earlier in the week in a media call that he was hoping to delay the club’s travel plans until there is more surety that the situation inside the MLS bubble is safe.

Vancouver Whitecaps are another Canadian club with hampered travel arrangements. they had been set to arrive in Orlando for the tournament on July 1. However, due to two inconclusive COVID-19 pre-travel screening tests the Whitecaps did not travel either. The tests later came back negative and the team will now depart for Orlando on Monday.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes Hotel Arrival
These COVID times: players from the San Jose Earthquakes check in for COVID-19 testing as they arrive at their temperature hotel on Orlando.
Handout Photo-USA TODAY NETWORK via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Of course the FC Dallas v Vancouver Whitecaps game scheduled for 9 July has been postponed, to be squeezed in at a later date, and both clubs will now play their opening games v Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes respectively on July 15.

Comparatively the news is good for Montreal Impact, which also didn’t go without a scare, Friday morning, when the day’s session was forced to end prematurely. “There was supposedly a positive case, but it was a false alarm, according to my information,” said TVA soccer analyst Sports Vincent Destouches on Twitter.

Impact players had to undergo further testing, Saturday morning and after a lengthy period of time the players were able to train during the evening. All players were present.

With all the negativity and conjecture flying around, the league cannot have the tournament start early enough. Kicking-off is the best way to bury the stories of concern, some of which may be not be proportionally reported and cause shock or surprise, before full confirmations can be provided.

Of course there is the FC Dallas situation to account for too. Unlike perhaps for other emerging stories, no-one can point to lack of confirmation or rumour-mongering in the serious case of the Texan club. There are genuine health concerns that simply must be taken care of.

It’s a delicate balance with which MLS is challenged. The league has invested much time and financial resource in getting the tournament organized, but the safety of all involved and those in the industries supporting the event and the general populace, must remain paramount.

But MLS will be determined to push ahead.

Still, nothing should be swept under the carpet in order to support the continuation of play, no matter the costs involved by a potential cancellation of the tournament.

I’m not suggesting MLS would deploy such a tactic. In fact I’m certain they wouldn’t.

We must hope however, that everything passes without any further undue concern, and everyone, that’s all of us, can simply start talking about the football again!