The great « MLS is back » tournament is turning into a fiasco. With at least 13 players from three teams infected (and probably more) by the coronavirus in Orlando, the American soccer league announced on Monday that FC Dallas was forfeited. While teams have arrived late in the « bubble » of Disney World, Florida, several other games will undoubtedly have to be postponed, and anger is brewing among players who feel they are playing guinea pigs. So much so that LAFC star Carlos Vela has announced that he will skip a tournament supposed to start on Wednesday to stay with his pregnant wife. If officially, a cancellation of the tournament was not – yet – on the agenda, Monday, everything could quickly change. The NBA is monitoring the situation closely, while the playoffs must start at the end of the month in the same place.
Dallas forfeit, who’s next?
MLS euphemistically announced on Monday that Dallas FC had been « removed » from the tournament. « The health of the players is our priority », obviously assures the league. A decision hailed by the club, when 10 of its players and a member of the staff have tested positive for the coronavirus – it seems before arriving in Orlando.
News: FC Dallas withdrawn from MLS is Back Tournament. https://t.co/UFU1gB0cVQ
– Major League Soccer (@MLS) July 6, 2020
– FC Dallas (@FCDallas) July 6, 2020
According to MLS, there are a total of 13 positive players (10 in Dallas and 3 at two other clubs) among the 557 players in Orlando. But according to US media, there are two cases of Covid at Vancouver FC and five at Nashville SC, so these teams have not been able to train. The Dallas-Vancouver game, which was scheduled to take place Thursday, has been canceled due to Dallas’ withdrawal. And the one between Nashville and Chicago, which is due to start the tournament on Wednesday, should be postponed at least, according to ESPN – the press conference scheduled for Monday has been canceled. Meanwhile, the Colorado Rapids finally flew to Orlando Monday night after testing negative.
Vela boycots the tournament, Rubio criticizes the failures of the bubble
At this stage, all cases of Covid have, officially, been contracted before joining Orlando. According to MLS, there was therefore no contamination on site. But players don’t really feel safe in Florida. Carlos Vela, top scorer last year (34 goals in 31 games) with LAFC, has announced that he will not take part in the tournament. The Mexican star has chosen to stay at home with his wife « during a high risk pregnancy ».
Columbus goalie Matt Lampson will make the trip but this cancer survivor said he was one of the players « at risk » in case of infection. The Chilean Diego Rubio, of the Colorado Rapids, finally, relayed – before his departure for Orlando – the disturbing testimony of a player of a confined team:
– Diego Rubio (@DiegoRubio_) July 5, 2020
“Their team is supposed to be in quarantine after testing positive. But there is no one to deliver the meals to their room, which is supposed to be protocol, so they have to take the elevator into the dining room and bring it back. They tell the other players to be careful with the surfaces and to use a ton of hydroalcoholic gel «
A partial bubble, and cases of Covid exploding around in Florida
On paper, the idea of MLS didn’t seem like a silly one: to get all the players together in a bubble, test them on their arrival and before every game. The problem is that the bubble is far from being airtight: if the players live well in a vacuum in the privatized hotels of the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex, at Disney World, the employees, them, go out every day to return. at home, according to the Orlando Sentinel. There is, of course, a protocol in place with regular temperature measurements, but with pre-symptomatic patients who can be contagious, the system is far from being shielded. Especially since the coronavirus is exploding in Florida, which was one of the first American states to deconfin, with 8,000 new daily cases on average since the end of June.
Coronavirus cases in Florida, with nearly 8,000 new cases daily for the past 10 days, and it’s red in counties around Orlando, where the MLS tournament is due to start on Wednesday pic.twitter.com/6w1ahMsT5z
– Philippe Berry (@ptiberry) July 7, 2020
The NBA hopes to learn from these failures
The NBA, which has chosen the large Disney World complex to end its season from July 30, is monitoring the situation closely. The main difference is that MLS let the players, who didn’t really want to spend their summers in isolation in Orlando, arrive at the last minute. The NBA teams, they will land in the coming days, several weeks before the start of the competition, which should allow better control of players and screening. Come on, if not, all you have to do is move everything to Canada.