Opener For MLS' Return Tournament Deemed A Success
MLS returned to play last night with Orlando City defeating Inter Miami CF, and with the mounting virus cases in Florida, it was a "victory for the league just to get the tournament off the ground," according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. TIMES. Still, with the virus cases rising, how long the tournament will continue is "hard to figure." But that makes the opener "all the more remarkable" (L.A. TIMES, 7/9). In Orlando, Mike Bianchi writes there was "immense hope when this tournament was scheduled that the coronavirus was subsiding, but, regrettably the virus has come back with a vengeance and barged right into MLS’s Disney bubble." Quite frankly, the league "desperately needed" last night’s game "just to get away from all the negativity that has surrounded the tournament during the past few days" (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 7/9).
SOCIAL JUSTICE TAKES CENTER STAGE: ESPN.com noted more than 100 Black MLS players "raised their right fists and took a knee" before yesterday's opener in a "show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter social justice movement." Some players "wore T-shirts over their jerseys with the words 'Black and Proud' and 'Silence is Violence' before the match," and both teams' starting players as well as the referees "took a knee before kickoff." Toronto FC D Justin Morrow, who is Exec Dir of the Black Players for Change organization, said that players "wanted to add their voices to the movement" (ESPN.com, 7/8). In Ft. Lauderdale, Dave Hyde writes, "They put their fists in the air. And they stood there in an uncompromising silence at the edge of American sports’ re-start." The first American men’s teams to return to play since the pandemic began "gave a glimpse of what to expect before games more than during them" (South Florida SUN SENTINEL, 7/9).
GARBER SPEAKS: MLS Commissioner Don Garber during the game said the tournament is "something that's never been done before, and while we planned really hard and worked really hard, we're managing it in ways that I think will be somewhat historic in time.” Garber said of the league's testing protocols, "The whole concept was to ensure that we were catching any infections as they were coming into Orlando, and that’s what's happened with Dallas, and that’s what has been happening with Nashville." He added, "The concept of all of this testing, of our players, as you saw, wearing masks, of the sanitization of our facilities, is something that was put in place so that we could understand what’s happening ... and be able to move forward in the tournament in a very safe and healthy way" ("Inter Miami-Orlando City," ESPN, 7/8).
BROADCAST INNOVATIONS: In Minneapolis, Jerry Zgoda notes ESPN "used a 160-person crew and 20-plus cameras -- double a typical game telecast -- attached to drones, towering cranes and locker-room stall." Microphones placed "everywhere from attached to goals to six embedded in the field captured players’ chatter and the sound of cleats striking balls crisply enhanced." Bluescreens erected along sidelines and behind each goal "cycled corporate-partner ads and supporters’ video throughout the game" (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 7/9). In DC, Steven Goff writes MLS’ broadcast partners introduced "innovations to bring audiences closer to the players." On location, though, there was "no atmosphere." Players and coaches were "audible from long distances." It had the "look and feel of a preseason friendly, though merciless tackles were a reminder of the seriousness" (WASHINGTON POST, 7/9).
ADIDAS IS BACK, TOO: YAHOO SPORTS' Doug McIntryre noted MLS decided to "superimpose a mammoth Adidas logo across the center of the field" for the match, and the "look was jarring." FIFA rules "prohibit team branding or advertising of any sort to be painted on the playing surface." But MLS, which is "projecting a billion dollar hit because of the impact of COVID-19, appears to have found a loophole by digitally adding longtime sponsor Adidas’s brand mark to the presentation." Adidas has been the league’s official equipment supplier since '06. The logo was "not included on the international broadcast feed" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/8).
NOT OUT OF THE WOODS YET: YAHOO SPORTS' Leander Schaerlaeckens wrote MLS has "gotten here, far outlasting any other professional [soccer] league in the United States, through remarkable discipline and long-term planning." Which is why its "insistence on resuming play in Florida has jarred." The league’s "resolve" in following the NWSL back out onto the field, a week and a half later, was "misguided." Schaerlaeckens: "You cannot put an entire soccer league on an island, in the middle of Florida, and just pretend the risk has been mitigated" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 7/8).