Good Friday morning folks, hope life is treating you well these days as we start to come out of phase one of COVID-19.
For weeks this column was more or less a parade of bad news—things getting cancelled, businesses on the ropes and lives being lost. Sure, we had some glimmers of hope, such as an aquarium (potentially) being saved but those moments did not come as frequently as we would have liked.
The good news is that appears to be changing. To be sure we are not out of the woods yet and social distancing and mask wearing measures are the move to protect your friends, family and neighbors. But from a soccer perspective (and that’s why we’re all here right?) things have certainly taken a turn for the better.
That’s because individual training, the first step towards getting MLS back, resumed Tuesday and Wednesday, after the Caps got the go-ahead from relevent local authorities. Jasser Khmiri and Yordy Reyna aside, even else on the first team squad participated.
The moratorium on small group and full squad training has been extended, it should be noted, meaning we are still weeks away from more robust practices and even a resumption of the season.
Yet it still was lovely to see the boys back in action (wearing masks, it should be noted). I can only imagine their relief to getting back on the pitch—if I’m feeling stir crazy in my apartment I can only imagine how professional footballers must be doing, given that they are, by definition, creatures of movement.
Same Ali, same.
The payoff, purportedly, will be the season resuming sometime this summer. According to multiple reports this week, first from Steven Goff at the Washington Post, that could involve sequestering all 26 teams at the Walt Disney World Wide World of Sports in Orlando. Matches would take place at the training complex there, with all players and staff under quarantine. Each team would play five games-ish and then the widely rumored tournament-style format could kick off.
We’ve discussed the benefits and drawbacks of playing at a neutral venue here in this column before. In fact this plan is really pretty similar to what Comissioner Don Garber kicked around a few weeks prior.
I still have concerns about quaranting players and coaches together en masse—if one player were to test positive, it has the potential of bringing down a lot of other people with them. Are you going to strictly limit outside visitors? And, if so, what about people who inevitably try to bend the rules (a la Khmiri and Reyna)?
There also are the mental health effects of uprooting players from their families and dropping them into a relatively unknown environment, all in the midst of a pandemic. To be sure football involves travel (if you’ve played for the Caps for any period of time that has become readily apparent). In fact, a stationary set of matches could provide some benefits for Vancouver, even away from BC Place. There are no cross country jaunts, no flying commercial across an entire continent.
But that doesn’t change the fact that players, much like you or I, would get rather lonely under the proposed setup. Marc dos Santos compared it to the World Cup earlier this week and that isn’t a bad comparison—except MLS is trying to figure out a way to get as many games, plus the MLS Cup playoffs, done. The postseason may well stretch into the winter and neutral venues would be basically guranteed because most parts of the U.S. and Canada will have run out of warm weather by then. Are we seriously going to keep players holed up for sixth months?
At the end of the day, however, this is just the opening salvo. It is probably better to take heart that there is a plan, even imperfect, to get the game we love back under way. That, combined with training kicking off this week, should give some hope that we are moving towards resumption sooner rather than later—itself, perhaps, a metaphor that the lives we left behind two-and-a-half months ago might also resume before we know it.
In the meanwhile, here are some links.
Shameless Self Promotion
If you want to hear more from MDS and Axel Schuster about training, well, we have you covered with Sam’s recap. Meanwhile Caleb, our K League beat reporter, has another dispatch, with an eye towards why there are so many big, international strikers
Best of the Rest
Here’s your primer on the Bundesliga, which is back in action this weekend
When it kicks back off, of course, things will look very different—and many will not be at ease
MLS unveiled its new developmental league—which features not just its team’s academies but 65 others as well
Some American players, meanwhile, are stranded in Austria during the pandemic. I mean, there are worse things I guess?