By Ben Wright, editor.
NASHVILLE, TN - Nashville SC players returned to small group training on Thursday for the first time since social distancing measures were put in place to combat COVID-19. Per the league, strict health protocols are in place for these sessions, including players being limited to certain portions of the field.
"It's nice," said club captain Dax McCarty. "You get to pass the ball amongst your teammates. Obviously still some restrictions apply. We still have to social distance, follow all the safety protocols and guidelines. But ultimately being able to touch the ball again, being in a closer vicinity with some of your teammates, knowing what it's like to feel the pop of the ball and interact with your teammates again, that's something that's very welcome for us."
Head coach Gary Smith agreed. "It makes all the difference in the world. We've just gone through a period of negotiation, and now everybody's very, very clear what they're aiming for. The fact that we can get back to some competitive work in the near future is just great news."
"Absolutely [knowing games are coming changes training]", McCarty emphasized. "We have a date now, we have a goal in mind. We're not just training to stay in shape. We're training to get better and be ready to play... It's a new level of intensity from the players, a new level of intensity from the coaching staff."
Major League Soccer lifted the moratorium on full team training on Thursday, provided team doctors, local health experts, and league officials approve their health and safety protocols. Nashville SC has not yet returned to full training, but are expected to do so in the near future.
Leagues around the world are starting to resume play. The Bundesliga in Germany is preparing to play their third weekend of matches in closed-door stadiums this weekend. The Premier League in England announced that they'll start back on June 17. In the United States, the USL Championship named July 11 as their provisional start date. MLS looks set to resume play in early July, with teams traveling to Orlando the week of June 24 to train for a round-robin style tournament.
"Seeing that live sporting events are back on, albeit behind closed doors or with no fans, should surely mean that we're moving in the right direction," said Smith. "That positive mindset that the conveyor belt is moving towards something that we recognize and we can start to enjoy again should put everyone, professional athletes and fans, in a much better place."
Quotes, photos and videos courtesy of Nashville SC Communications.