On Tuesday, with approval from local authorities, the Vancouver Whitecaps resumed individual training at the National Soccer Development Centre at UBC.
In an official club statement, the Whitecaps explained the measures which would be in place as players returned to the pitch in a limited capacity.
“By allowing players, on a voluntary basis, back on the Whitecaps FC National Soccer Development Centre training fields for individual workouts, the club is able to provide a controlled environment that ensures adherence to safety protocols and physical distancing measures for players and staff. The club’s two primary grass fields will be used, which will provide a quarter of a pitch for up to eight players in one session.”
Later in the day, during a Whitecaps Media conference call, Marc Dos Santos expanded on exactly what the resumption of training was looking like at the team facility.
“It’s something right now where the first two weeks are going to be very much just the physical loads which are the most important,” said Dos Santos. “We’re trying to get their bodies used to the demands of the game again.”
Dos Santos also touched on how the updated measures have provided a morale boost for players and staff alike. “It’s an important step. Going on the grass, touching a ball, seeing their teammates around and the coaching staff [albeit at a distance], it’s a beginning.”
When asked about the possibility of a tournament-like format (potentially in Orlando) if and when MLS play resumes, and how that might be difficult on players’ and coaches’ families, Dos Santos explained that he would have to treat it like a World Cup.
“If you look at players and coaches that go to an event like the World Cup, there is this time away from your family that they have to face - so it would be the same for us.”
Finally, Dos Santos revealed that each player eligible for individual training (i.e. not Reyna and Khmiri) had elected to participate. Players were split into two groups, with seven taking part in Group A on Tuesday, and seven preparing to take part in Group B on Wednesday.
Although Axel Schuster also added his thoughts on the resumption of training, his most intriguing comments came regarding the resumption of the K-League, and what his staff could learn from those matches.
“I think we got tired of looking at old matches. It was interesting to see...we look for profiles that fit our team in every match we watch. It doesn’t mean that we are looking to sign someone right now, but it opens up your mind to perhaps make some notes and to go back later if you’re looking for that position.”
Concerning MLS specifically, Schuster wasn’t keen to elaborate on any concrete plans for the resumption of play, or if Vancouver specifically would be a destination involved in that process.
The league has really emphasized presenting a united front in this regard, so I doubt that we will be hearing anything from the Whitecaps which has not yet been released on a league-wide platform. But regardless, for the time being, the Whitecaps have taken the first step on the road to resuming play - all we can do now is be patient.