Major League Soccer’s summer tournament stood on increasingly shaky ground Sunday after a game was postponed due to a positive test announced just minutes before kickoff.
The D.C. United-Toronto FC contest, scheduled for Sunday at 9 a.m., was pushed back to Monday at 9 a.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes) after a D.C. player had a positive test and a Toronto player had an inconclusive test.
Retests of all players on both teams taken leaguewide Sunday morning came back negative, allowing the game to proceed. But the league ordered the two players in question to not take part.
It marked the second time this game was postponed. The game was originally scheduled for July 10 at 8 p.m., but was pushed back after Toronto delayed its departure to Orlando until July 6. The league originally wanted each team to arrive on site at least seven days before its first game.
D.C. was already on the field Sunday morning when the postponement was announced — and it came just as ESPN’s national TV broadcast was beginning.
While the name of the player who tested positive was not made public, forward Erik Sorga was notably missing from the bench when United’s lineup was announced. Toronto, meanwhile, had not yet left the MLS hotel compound at Disney World’s Swan and Dolphin Resort near Orlando.
The Washington Post reported that even with the test results, both teams were cleared to leave for the game venue. The postponement led MLS to push back D.C. and Toronto’s second games in the tournament by a day.
In a conference call with reporters Sunday morning, MLS president and deputy commissioner Mark Abbott insisted that “the tournament can still be conducted safely,” but “at the point we determine we can’t, obviously we would make a decision.” He also said the league’s testing protocols “are working as they were designed,” separating players with positive tests but not stopping everyone else.
While Sunday morning’s game was postponed, MLS forged ahead with Sunday night’s Sporting Kansas City-Minnesota United game despite the fact that a Kansas City player was confirmed Friday as having COVID-19. Though the player was already in isolation by the time of the announcement, he would have had interactions with teammates and staff before then.
ESPN reported that everyone eligible from Kansas City and Minnesota was confirmed to have tested negative. But the incubation period for the virus is so long that it’s impossible to know whether it has spread.
Minnesota’s 2-1 win over Kansas City was nationally-televised on ESPN as part of a Sunday night doubleheader. Real Salt Lake beat the Colorado Rapids, 2-0, in the late game.
“I’d be lying if I said that the players hadn’t mentioned it,” United manager Adrian Heath said after his team’s win. “I’m sure that the league have done all the right things today.”
Union manager Jim Curtin said Sunday that his team had not had any positive tests in Orlando, and went through another round of testing Sunday afternoon. The team has been able to make use of some of the recreational facilities available, including a golf trip and a few hours at one of the resort’s swimming pools.
“It does feel like a safe environment,” Curtin said of the MLS bubble, “while sometimes maybe things around you are changing at a rapid rate.”
Goalkeeper Andre Blake admitted to feeling “a little bit uncertain about certain things, but it is what it is and we’re trying to take all the necessary precautions.”
The MLS rule book has been widely praised by players and coaches, even some who were initially skeptical. But it still might not be enough.
The Union’s next opponent, Inter Miami (Tuesday, 10:30 p.m., TUDN and Twitter), has had a potential COVID-19 issue in recent days. Centerback Andres Reyes had to leave the bubble to go to a local hospital after taking an elbow to the throat from Orlando City’s Dom Dwyer in Wednesday’s tournament opener.
Fortunately, Reyes did not have to spend the night at the hospital. But he did have to go into isolation upon returning to the MLS bubble and take multiple rounds of virus tests. The Miami Herald reported Saturday that all of the tests came back negative and Reyes has been cleared to play.
Florida officials announced Sunday that the state has a record-setting 15,300 new virus cases - the most ever announced in a single day by any U.S. state - taking the statewide total to 269,811. The state’s death toll is 4,346. The Orlando area has had 43,989 total cases and 426 deaths. Orange County, where the MLS hotel is located, reported a record 1,371 new cases on Sunday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has refused to order the state’s citizens to wear masks in public settings.
The Disney complex is amply isolated from the rest of the region from a geographical perspective, but hotel staff and bus drivers go home at the end of each day. And the theme parks are reopening to the public, starting with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom this weekend. Epcot and Hollywood Studios are to reopen Wednesday.
Toronto FC vs. D.C. United: now Monday, 9 a.m. (ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)
Montreal Impact vs. Toronto FC: now Thursday, 8 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)
D.C. United vs. New England Revolution: now Friday, 8 p.m. (FS1, TUDN)