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The Union have ceased all operations until at least Monday because of the coronavirus, in accordance with a Major League Soccer directive barring all collective training activities leaguewide until then.
Players can still use team facilities for individual workouts, but there will be no formal practice sessions until Monday at the earliest. The league said it will decide Monday when teams can return to the field.
The Union’s shutdown applies to the MLS team and the USL team in Chester, and the youth academy in Wayne.
Players were practicing on the training fields in Chester on Thursday morning when MLS announced that it was suspending games for 30 days. The USL made the same move a few hours later.
At least five MLS games, including Saturday’s home opener, and three USL games are off the board as of now. The Union said Friday morning that tickets to postponed games will be honored on their rescheduled dates. That assumes the games won’t be written off, an outcome MLS is trying to avoid.
“We were looking forward to our first game in Subaru Park in front of our amazing fans, but can assure you that will only be done when the well-being of our fans, players, and staff can be assured,” manager Jim Curtin said Friday morning on a conference call with reporters. “This is an evolving situation, and every day there seems to be a new adjustment in real time.”
Mark McKenzie, Brenden Aaronson, and Matt Freese returned to Philadelphia on Friday morning after Concacaf suspended its men’s Olympic qualifying tournament. Curtin said the players left the tournament site in Guadalajara, Mexico on Thursday night and took as many precautions as they could in flying home. The players will not be tested for coronavirus unless they show symptoms, Curtin said.
None of the Union’s staffers is abroad scouting right now, and Curtin said 99% of the staff is in the Philadelphia area. That includes South America-based scout Terence McFadden, who happens to be here at the moment.
“Everybody is accounted for,” Curtin said.
Curtin is staying at home with his family for now. And whenever operations resume in Chester, if on-field practice is limited, he can watch the same film only so many times.
“As a head coach of a team and as professional soccer players, I think we’re all wired to, you know, think of every little advantage we can gain: Do we have a mini-preseason? Can we schedule friendlies and games to prepare us?” he said. “I think that has to go out the window right now. I think the health has to come first. That competitiveness has to take a backseat to doing what’s right and doing the safe thing.”
As for how the Union will treat stadium staff who are out of work during the suspension, the team said in a statement: “Our gameday staff play a significant role in defining the guest experience at Subaru Park. We are in communication with the league office and other MLS teams on this topic, among others, and are evaluating scenarios. At the moment, two home games have been postponed, but we do expect those games to be rescheduled.”