FC Dallas Exit Leaves Questions For MLS Return, But Tourney Still On
FC Dallas will not play in the MLS is Back Tournament after 10 players and one coach tested positive for COVID-19, but there was "no decision on how the schedule would be adjusted to accommodate" the withdrawal, according to Paul Kennedy of SOCCER AMERICA. It is "not clear if FC Dallas will be the only team to withdraw from the tournament or if other matches will have to be postponed." MLS in its announcement said that "three other players from two other teams had tested positive" -- the Crew previously confirmed that one of their players tested positive -- but the league "did not confirm reports by The Athletic of an outbreak among Nashville SC players who have not trained since their arrival in Orlando on Friday." With the first Nashville SC game scheduled for tomorrow against the Fire, it is "hard to imagine that it would go ahead though there has not yet been an announcement from MLS" (SOCCERAMERICA.com, 7/7).
EASY CALL? MLS Commissioner Don Garber said once the league saw Dallas' testing numbers, it was a "fairly easy decision" to pull them from the tourney. Garber: "If anytime we believe that anything is going to happen that is going to threaten their health and safety, then we’re going to have to pivot and make decisions operating in this new COVID world." Garber noted MLS "knew that there were going to be some risks and that there were some things that we would have to address on the fly as we were going through the protocols, and this is just an example of that" (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/6). The AP's Anne Peterson noted Don Garber "vowed to stop the tournament if warranted." Garber said, "If there is a situation at any time that I believe that the protocols aren't working, and the health and safety of our players is at risk, then I will make the decision to shut down the tournament. ... This is proving that our protocols worked and our plan so far has been sound" (AP, 7/6). In Tacoma, Andrew Hammond writes FC Dallas' withdrawal "throws a Texas-sized monkey wrench into the plans of the entire tournament." FC Dallas' first game against the Whitecaps "had already been postponed," and now this "leaves the tournament's ambitious format up in the air" (Tacoma NEWS TRIBUNE, 7/7).
FEELING UNEASY: THE ATHLETIC's Stejskal & Tenorio wrote it "doesn't mean the league is in the clear now that Dallas is out." The overall numbers are low, but there are "fundamental problems with the league's protocols that have and will continue to create uncertainty in the bubble." This is "all happening as Florida remains a coronavirus hotspot." The recent surge in cases has "increased anxiety inside the bubble." Players and staff members said that they "largely feel safe, but most couldn't help but wonder whether this tournament is worth the risk to their wellbeing -- and if it would be happening under these circumstances if MLS had a higher profile." One player on Sunday said, "If this were happening in any other league, it'd be DOA" (THEATHLETIC.com, 7/6).