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Garth Lagerwey, Sounders try to navigate the unknown in wake of coronavirus pandemic

GM expresses openness to pushing MLS Cup into December and possibly even playing at a neutral site.

MLS: MLS Cup-Seattle Sounders FC Training Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

“May he live in interesting times,” is a phrase that Seattle Sounders Manager and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey could probably do without actually living these days.

This Saturday will mark two weeks since the Sounders last took the field, battling the Columbus Crew to a 1-1 draw. The Sounders haven’t formally trained in a week, with MLS imposing a moratorium on team training activities that currently extends through Friday — and just this morning the league announced it would be extending its suspension of the season through at least May 10.

But even those dates may be optimistic.

“We’re going to follow the guidelines of the public health authorities, both local and national,” Lagerwey told Sounder at Heart on Wednesday. “We’re in constant consultation with our medical folks and infectious disease specialists.

“We’re really grateful to have such competent governor, mayor and county executive in place and providing the leadership on these. As to what’s to come, this situation is so fluid that every 12 hours, something evolves, so I have no idea what happens next.”

The pace and changing direction of the information has essentially placed a giant road block in the ability to plan for the remainder of the 2020 season — assuming it returns in anything like a timely fashion. According to Lagerwey, it somewhat resembles the only recently completed preseason, with the lack of a Collective Bargaining Agreement hampering teams’ ability to make moves in advance of the start of the season.

“It’s the CBA all over again.” Lagerwey said. “It’s been the craziest year. You went through the entire offseason having to have three contingency plans. You get settled for one month, maybe, and now we have to have three contingency plans based on what the season looks like and when we play and where we play.

“The reality is that we don’t have any information as the situation continues to evolve. What’ll make that decision is the public health authorities.”

Along with the eight-week suspension, MLS announced that it is exploring other scheduling options, including moving MLS Cup back to December, where it had been prior to 2019. A report by Yahoo also noted that MLS may go to a neutral warm-weather site, which would potentially be important if the championship game is pushed into winter.

“We did that way for a while,” Lagerwey said about the neutral-site location idea. “It’s certainly something that’s worked before. It’s hard for me to say coming out of the last MLS Cup in Seattle which was the coolest sporting event of my life. We all have to be flexible. We may have to make some adjustments to the schedule.”

The delay in restarting the season makes it difficult to assess how long it will take the players to get back into full fitness. Though the Sounders had been training since Jan. 11, and had four competitive games under their belt, a May 10 restart will mean more than two months between competitive games.

“You’re going to need more time to ramp up the longer that you’re off,” Lagerwey acknowledged.

With the season now on hold for at least eight more weeks, the impact on business operations will certainly be acute, but it will be particularly painful for hourly and part-time workers, who use game days to supplement their income. There are indications that at least some workers would be paid for shifts lost in March, but beyond that things are unclear.

“It’s a complex situation, with FGI [First and Goal], with the Seahawks, with PSA [Public Stadium Authority], they’re looking for solutions,” Lagerwey said.

One area where the Sounders will attempt to help provide relief is through community efforts such as the Rave Foundation.

“We’ve engaged through Rave throughout the Puget Sound building safe spaces for kids to play,” Lagerwey said. “Another example of leadership, being good members of the community is what Russell Wilson and Ciara did [Wednesday] morning, donating a million meals.

“I think we have good examples within our club of good works. We’ve long been a leader in the community through our Rave efforts, and I think you may be seeing some announcements from Rave in the future.”

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