Player’s Perspective: How Nashville SC Is Handling The Coronavirus Pandemic
By Lucas Panzica, staff writer.
The last three weeks has felt like three months.
It was Thursday, March 12 when Major League Soccer joined every other major league in the country in suspending its season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Nashville Soccer Club was just two matches into its inaugural MLS campaign, still looking for its first points while building off a promising foundation and preparing for a trip to Toronto.
Now, as we practice social distancing and state governments across the country issue “safer-at-home” orders, players and coaches are not permitted to interact or train together. Nashville SC defender Taylor Washington spoke with Speedway Soccer, detailing what life is like in quarantine for an MLS player.
“It’s been tough” said Washington. “You see so much going on throughout the world and when your career gets put on hold, it’s something I’ve never had to go through before.”
As players are relegated to self-quarantining, the daily routine has almost reverted back to a preseason lifestyle, despite already having begun the regular season.
“Whatever we needed; they were on the front lines of insuring that we have it” said Washington of the club. “John Ireland and Steve Mason - our strength and conditioning coaches - really planned out everything, even before we knew it was going to be this prolonged period of time.
“It’s great to have that template there to go off of, depending on how you feel. You gage it, you try and do everything you can to simulate a gameday, but that’s the hard part, you know what I mean? It’s basically like it’s preseason all over again."
“We have everything planned out; each day of the week is organized around a certain workout. We have apps that track our weightlifting stuff. It’s a blessing to be provided with workout equipment besides the bike, like dumbbells, medicine balls, and stretching straps.”
Only five players on Nashville SC’s matchday rosters this season, including Washington, were a part of the organization during its USL days. That means for the vast majority of the club’s players, Nashville is a relatively new city. The club was in the early stages of developing a chemistry that would lead to MLS wins, and that process has now been stunted by the ongoing pandemic. Despite this, Washington maintains that the culture fostered throughout the preseason and the early onset of the regular season has prepared the group for a time like this.
“I think we have such a close-knit group and a great group of guys, that the relationships we established in preseason and the amount of time that we spent during preseason not only carries over during times like these, but it makes us stronger” stated Washington. “I think each and every guy in our locker room is special. They’re good people, besides the fact that they’re great soccer players.”
Players, staff, media, and fans are all counting down the days until sports are back up and running. But for players, it’s not just the competition that is missed during times like these.
“You miss that team environment” continued Washington. “You miss the banter in the locker room, you miss walking into breakfast in the morning and having a laugh with the lads.
“You miss the communal side of it, so I’m looking forward to eventually getting back to that and, you know, building upon that team chemistry that we already have, and just building around the guys and working towards wins and everything.”
Nashville SC’s season began with a 2-1 home loss to Atlanta United in front of an electric environment at Nissan Stadium, and a 1-0 loss at Portland before it was cut short. Although those results do not change, the current situation feels like a complete reset for players. When play does resume, the hope is that those first matchups against some of the MLS’ top contenders will only benefit the squad moving forward.
“We got our feet wet; you know what I mean? We had an incredible atmosphere at our first game, we played an away game and a home game” said Washington. “Our guys are experienced guys. Although we have to go through this period now which is, you know, uncertainty, it’s basically like another preseason.
“I’m not worried about the team; I know that we’ll come in with the right mindset and the right mentality to get the job done and get results.”
Washington noted the support he has seen from fans throughout the last three weeks and was sure to extend a message to supporters anxiously awaiting the club’s return.
“The fans are all engaged, and they’re dying for us to get back onto the field. I would say just be patient, do your part in making sure you’re staying safe and healthy, and we’re going to do our part to make sure that when we do step back out on the pitch, were going to be 100% and giving our all for all you guys.”
Nobody knows when MLS, and other leagues will finally resume play. In an unprecedented time that has not yet shown a light at the end of the tunnel, it can be easy to lose track of routines and goals that were ever-present in the world of professional athletics before March 12. For Washington, his teammates, and their colleagues across MLS, it is simply an opportunity to come out of the situation stronger than they were before.
“I think this is a great time for us to work each individually on our craft, get better for the team, and be ready for when that MLS season does come back, because it will come back.”