With a week to go until MLS teams can start arriving in Orlando, Fla., there is troubling evidence of a spike in coronavirus cases in the state — and in the Orlando area specifically.
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In the seven-day period ending Tuesday, the positive test rate was 6.5%, compared to 2.5% for the previous seven days.
MLS teams will be isolated from the public when they arrive at Disney World, and they’ll fly charter to get there. But hotel staff, bus drivers and so on will go home at the end of the day, so they won’t be part of the bubble.
Many fans are justifiably worried. Union manager Jim Curtin has his share of concerns, too, but he’s confident that the league will keep his team healthy.
“I read and see the news just like you guys do, and there’s certainly some serious things going on down in Florida right now,” Curtin said Wednesday. “But I trust that the league will have the players’ safety and our safety at the forefront of things.”
He said he’s been tested three times in the last week. That pace of testing is likely to continue until the Union leave town.
“It’s pretty strenuous, the protocols that we go through on a daily basis, but that’s the uniqueness of this virus — that you can get tested, and two minutes after you get tested you can catch it,” Curtin said. “So there’s still unknown and uncertainty, but I have to say our league and our club have done a great job in terms of keeping everything as safe as possible.”
Curtin says he has heard the Union will play their tournament opener on July 9 against Nashville SC. That possibility has been hinted at for a few days, though the league office insisted when it was first rumored that the schedule was not set yet. The schedule is supposed to be confirmed this week.
The Union will leave for Orlando a week before their first game. They still haven’t returned to their training facility in Chester yet, because they don’t have permission from Gov. Tom Wolf to do so.
For now, the team has moved its practices to fields in New Castle, Del., run by the Kirkwood soccer club. The organization has a longstanding affiliation with the Union, and midfielder Anthony Fontana played there growing up. (It also hired former manager Peter Nowak a year after the Union fired him.)
That allows the Union to train on grass for a while after using the turf field at the 76ers’ Fieldhouse complex in Wilmington.
Curtin wanted his team to play a warmup friendly or two against a nearby USL or MLS team before flying south, but the league barred all of its teams from playing friendlies before they get to Orlando. Teams can play warmup games once they arrive but must quarantine for a few days before doing so — which means they must leave early, which means more time away from families.