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Coronavirus concerns leave Sounders weighing difficult options

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Sounders have not yet given any indication they plan to cancel or postpone upcoming matches, but that could change.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

As public health officials continue to grapple with the appropriate response to the evolving situation around the COVID-19 virus, it has become an open question as to whether or not the Seattle Sounders will go ahead with Saturday’s match against the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field.

Although the Sounders have not issued a formal updated statement as of this writing, a team official did indicate one could be coming “very soon” and that they are currently digesting the latest information. Prior to last Sunday’s game against the Chicago Fire, they released this:

“Seattle Sounders FC and our counterparts at CenturyLink Field and First & Goal Inc. are closely monitoring the public health developments throughout our region. Nothing is more important than public safety and the wellbeing of our fans at all Sounders FC events. Our club is maintaining real-time communication with regional health authorities.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the immediate health risk to the United States public is low. Sounders FC is part of both a regional task force and Major League Soccer’s task force to monitor this developing situation. As matters evolve and more information becomes available, we will continue to provide relevant details to the public.”

Probably the most notable change since then is a statement from Washington Governor Jay Inslee on Wednesday in which he he said, “Folks should start to think about avoiding large events and assemblies. We are not making a request formally right now for events to be cancelled, but people should be prepared for that possibility and need to be thinking about it.”

The King County Public Health Department also issued recommendations that “people at higher risk of severe illness should stay home and away from large groups of people as much as possible.” Among those considered to be high risk are people 60 and older; people with underlying health conditions including heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes; people who have weakened immune systems; and People who are pregnant.

Among the other “large assemblies” in Seattle in the near future is Emerald City Comic Con, which just released a statement offering refunds to anyone who feels uncomfortable or is unable to attend their event, which runs March 12-15 at the Washington State Convention Center.

If the Sounders were to take action, it is not immediately clear if cancelling matches, postponing them or playing them behind closed doors would be most likely. In Italy, Serie A officials announced on Wednesday that all matches will be played behind closed doors until the end of the month.

As you’d probably imagine, the issue has also been a topic of conversation among players.

“We’re getting all our weights, all that stuff, sanitized as often as we can,” Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan said following Wednesday’s training session. “We have hand sanitizers in our locker room. If you’re sick, you don’t show up. We just can’t take any chances, take any risks.

“It’s been a topic for a lot different people. Just be safe, Wash your hands as often as possible. Be cautious of how you’re feeling, how people around you are feeling. That’s something we’re throwing into the mix and putting that message out there.”

Roldan said he didn’t have any concerns about potentially playing.

“I think we’re in a safe space, especially us being young and healthy,” he said. “That obviously plays a factor. We’re all cautious of what we’re doing. If it gets to the point where we can’t have games or have people at the games, we have to take the safest scenarios. It’s a tough time and you have to be extra safe.”