We do not know how 10 players from FC Dallas came to be infected with the coronavirus as they prepared to compete in the MLS is Back Tournament. No one at the club has chosen to reveal this information, or to hint at what occurred. It is very much possible no one really knows.
What is clear, though, is this was too much for FCD to manage and still compete in the monthlong tournament that begins Wednesday in Orlando. As happened a few weeks back with the Orlando Pride and the NWSL Challenge Cup currently being contested in Utah, FC Dallas has been withdrawn from the MLS competition, which will now go on with 25 teams.
“It was our view that with as many Dallas players that have tested positive, they have to go into quarantine, it would not allow them to train and would put them into a position where they wouldn’t be able to compete in the tournament and do so in a way that would be within our protocol,” commissioner Don Garber told ESPN. “It was a tough decision to make, but one we felt was the right decision for the MLS is Back Tournament.”
There will be no shortage of “shut it down” comments as a result of this action. This has been a common reaction, from media members paid to cover sports and fans who’ve long supported sports, to every piece of negative news developing during the attempts by various leagues to return to competition while the COVID-19 pandemic persists in ravaging the United States.
One thing to consider, though, that rarely seems to be considered: It likely is safer inside the bubbles these leagues and teams are creating than it is outside.
Beyond FC Dallas, only three members of the MLS delegation currently in Orlando have tested positive for the virus. Out of more than 500 players, that’s not even 1 percent. Teams began arriving nearly two weeks ago, which suggests that even as Florida has become highly problematic in regard to the increasing volume of COVID-19 cases, the environment created inside the bubble has not been breached.
“I can only speak to my personal experience so far,” Inter Miami goalkeeper Luis Robles said Monday. “It’s now developed or evolved to us walking from our meal room to the treatment rooms to our buses to where we go to practice, the whole time wearing our masks, keeping our distance. I felt relatively safe.
“The thing that our team continues to reiterate is that we have to practice – we have to at least honor the protocols — but we have to practice good habits. That means we wear our mask as much as we can. The only time we don’t wear it is in our rooms or when we’re at the meal room eating with the team. Or, of course, on the training field.
“I guess the message I would say . . . is that those protocols are there for a reason, and as long as you continue to stress the importance of it and put the responsibility on individuals and those individuals abide by them, I think you increase your chances of creating the safest environment possible.”
An NWSL source told the Orlando Sentinel the Pride’s positive tests followed a visit to a bar by multiple team members.
Six FC Dallas players tested positive upon arriving in Orlando. They might have contracted the virus in transit or before they departed. If they hadn’t been tested in order to gain admittance to the MLS bubble, though, it’s conceivable the original patient might not have become aware of his condition and, perhaps, infected many more persons. At this point, we can’t know.
FCD’s games originally had been postponed, in the hope it would be able to field a representative team and begin competing once the healthy players had sufficient time to train. The three group games for each team in the tournament are to count in the regular-season standings, presuming MLS is able to resume competition in home stadiums sometime in the fall, as planned. Dallas will need to have three makeup games scheduled.
We can hope that will be a problem MLS must confront in the coming months. If they’re still playing soccer in the autumn, it will mean plenty has gone right: with the impending tournament, and with addressing the continuing pandemic. We all could use some good news.