The MLS is Back schedule is out, and teams are starting to arrive in Orlando ahead of the start of the tournament on July 8. For the Seattle Sounders, preparations continue as the team tries to get to fitness ahead of their first game against San Jose Earthquakes on July 10.
Head coach Brian Schmetzer provided an update Thursday afternoon on the team’s plans ahead of their departure for Orlando. The Sounders will be taking advantage of MLS allowing teams to leave late, staying in Seattle to continue training.
“We’re leaving July 3, we’re going to play our last scrimmage the morning of the third [and] we’re going to get on a charter plane and fly to Orlando,” Schmetzer said.
Once the team arrives, there will be a protocol that the team has to follow to ensure — as much as is possible — that there are players or staff who are positive.
“As soon as we land, we have to go through testing, so we’ll be in quarantine in our rooms,” Schmetzer said. Once the tests return negative, Schmetzer said the team will be able to resume training.
Leaving late will mean that the training schedule will be somewhat condensed, but Schmetzer said he isn’t concerned, and there will be plenty of time to practice.
“We have it planned out so that we have our normal four-day lead-in and then our game,” Schmetzer said. “It actually works out pretty good the way the schedule is.”
An unfortunate wrinkle in the game schedule is a 6 a.m. PT start versus FC Dallas. In contrast to the team’s training schedule, Schmetzer said there is not much they can do to prepare for such an early start.
“There is no way to emulate that,” Schmetzer said. “We’re going to have to make sure a couple days prior we are adjusting our breakfast schedule. That is going to be a tough game, there is no getting around that.”
One player whose availability is undetermined is Will Bruin, who sustained an injury in the team scrimmage last Friday. However, Schmetzer did not seem overly concerned about Bruin’s long-term prospects.
“His participation in Orlando is TBD,” Schmetzer said. Bruin is expected to at least travel and Schmetzer said he’s still hoping to have his forward available later in the tournament.
When the team gets to Orlando, they will likely be in the middle of a state that is seeing an alarming rise in Covid-19 cases. While the tournament will be closed to the public, there is still the risk of infection given that the site will not be completely closed off. That said, Schmetzer said he is satisfied with the precautions being taken by the league.
“I am still feeling safe about the whole process,” Schmetzer said. “We will be in a bubble, we will be limiting contact, people that we do come into contact will be doing screening. I understand there are going to be cases in the country, there’ll be cases with MLS teams, there will be cases with the Sounders, but the protocols we have in place I am OK with.
“Nobody’s driving down to Miami Beach. We are going to take this seriously so I still feel pretty safe about the whole process.”
Schmetzer did confirm a report in The Athletic that the Sounders did have a player who tested positive for the virus and though he declined to name the player, he noted that all protocols were followed and the player has recovered and is back in training.
“All I would tell you is that happened very early on at the beginning individual training,” Schmetzer said. “Our protocol worked great because we haven’t had any additional cases. The player was quarantined, he did additional testing, the doctors have checked him over and he’s back in full training.
“It’s just another story for me that this virus is serious and nobody wants to catch it. But we do have to be realistic that if somebody does catch it we do need to have in place the proper protocols and safety measures to make sure nobody else is affected.”