Updated: Jul 8
By Ben Wright.
ORLANDO, FL - FC Dallas is out of the MLSisBack Tournament after discovering a cluster of Covid-19 cases in their squad, and Nashville doesn't seem to be too far behind.
On Monday, Major League Soccer made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLSisBack Tournament, after 10 players and one coach tested positive for Coronavirus after landing in Orlando. “Given the impact of the number of positive tests on the club’s ability to train and play competitive matches, we have made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLSisBack Tournament,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. “The health of everyone involved in our return to play has always been our top priority, and we will continue to make decisions consistent with that priority.” Dallas had been quarantined in their rooms after receiving positive tests on arrival, unable to train. MLS initially opted to postpone their opening match, giving them an additional six days to eliminate further positives, but the lack of training and potential for further cases ultimately ended Dallas's tournament before it began. Dallas had 11 cases. Nashville reportedly has as many as eight.
As of now, Nashville is still in the tournament, but their first match has been postponed. The 22 players who haven't tested positive haven't trained in a week, and asking them to play a match in a day is a recipe for injuries, and at this point, whenever Nashville do play they’ll be at a disadvantage from a fitness and sharpness perspective. MLS won't want that. Nashville won't want that.
So then the question becomes one of containment. Is Nashville's cluster contained to just eight players? Can the league be sure it's contained to just eight? If they can be sure, how quickly can Nashville begin training again? Will it be enough time to make simply postponing their first match a workable option instead of pulling them from the competition all together?
MLS laid out protocols to create a "bubble", and with the exception of Nashville and Dallas, it has largely worked. But it's one thing to contain the spread while teams are quarantined, or even while they're still training apart from the rest of the league. It's another thing entirely to try and contain if after matches between teams have been played.
It's tough. Per Grant Wahl, other teams are (rightfully) wary of playing Nashville. It's a health risk. It's also unfair to those teams who have handled things well and kept players healthy.
With just a day left before Nashville was set to play their opener, there's been no word from the league or the team on how the schedule will be impacted. Dallas's withdrawal paves the way to bypass postponement and remove Nashville from the tournament altogether. I would love to watch Nashville play in this tournament. It's been four months since their last match. That's a LONG time for a largely brand-new fanbase to wait. But at the end of the day, it's a pretty clear choice.
People's health comes first. By a long, long stretch.
We'll hear shortly how this outbreak will impact Nashville in the tournament. Dallas's story should prepare Nashville fans to continue waiting to watch their team.