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Sounders provide peek into ‘MLS Bubble’

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Cristian Roldan, Brian Schmetzer say the team is holding up well.

Jared Martinez / MLS

It may not be how anyone would want to spend their time at Disney World, but nearly a week into their extended stay at the Florida resort the Seattle Sounders say things are going about as well as they could.

Notwithstanding the drama elsewhere, since the Sounders touched down in Orlando on July 3 and passed the initial Coronavirus testing the team has gone about their business as they prepare for their game against the San Jose Earthquakes on Friday (6 p.m. PDT).

For midfielder Cristian Roldan, not much has changed since he arrived. Back in Seattle, the U.S. International player said he had been self-quarantining throughout the stay-at-home order.

“It’s been a little bit different,” he said. “Obviously these are weird circumstances. I play video games, I relax, I quarantine in my everyday life, so it’s not too difficult for myself. The WiFi is good, we can’t complain too much. There are worse things. As long as we have that attitude, we’ll be fine.”

Coming into the situation, Roldan allowed that there was some concerns about the safety protocols and testing given the overall situation in Florida where more than 50,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported over the past week.

“There was hesitation to come,” he said. “But the most important thing is to trust our teammates, trust ourselves to do our part. Wear a mask when asked, and follow all the protocols.

“As players, we understand what we’re getting into, and I think we’ve done a good job following all of the protocols.”

In the case of head coach Brian Schmetzer, he also admitted he had some reservations about what the team was getting itself into.

“When we got on the airplane to get down here, there was some uncertainty, maybe some unknowns,” Schmetzer said. “There was the feeling of ‘OK what are we in for?’ But we really didn’t know what this was going to look like until we landed on the ground.”

Once the team passed through the initial protocol and got settled, Schmetzer said he has been mostly satisfied with how the league has run things.

“The way the testing process has worked has been exceptional,” Schmetzer said. “Where MLS has done a good job is: the fields are good, we have enough equipment to do our normal trainings, the transportation has been good. Maybe it’s not what you’re used to on a normal MLS road trip, but it wasn’t the drama of ‘oh my god, this is just horrible.’ I think MLS has done a good job of trying to get this massive undertaking to take off.”

Within the bubble, Roldan said the team has been able to get through their training sessions and receive treatment as needed. And there are some extracurricular activities that allow players to pass the time that isn’t spent in meetings, games or video sessions. Still, there are some things that Roldan says highlight the uniqueness of what the team is going through.

“The training times, in particular have been rather interesting,” Roldan said. “10:30 in the morning, 9 at night. We do it on the road, but we don’t do it on a regular basis.”

Additionally, the level of the safety protocol for Roldan highlights how seriously the league is taking the situation.

“When you leave the bubble, you have to be quarantined, you have to get tested and make sure you come back negative before you see the team,” Roldan said. “When you see friends, you don’t talk to them for a long period of time. It’s just a ‘hello,’ it’s just a ‘goodbye’ and you carry on with your day.

“It’s tolerable. It’s something we can do.”

Notes

  • Schmetzer said the entire first team made the trip to Orlando, including Will Bruin, who is nursing a leg injury. While Schmetzer all but ruled Bruin out for the group stage, he is holding out hope that the forward would be able to return for the knockout stage should the Sounders advance.
  • In addressing the health of the team, Schmetzer also poked a bit of fun at Ruidiaz who recently posted a photo of himself icing his ankle. “Raul likes to post photos of various training moments, that’s just part of his online presence. Don’t worry about that one.”
  • Speaking of the group stage, as of Wednesday the Sounders only have two games scheduled in the initial round, with FC Dallas bowing out due to multiple positive tests. There remains a possibility that a team will be moved from the six-team Group A, but that has not yet happened.
  • Speaking of group A, the status of Nashville SC is up in the air. A total of nine players have tested positive for the coronavirus, and at halftime of the Inter Miami/Orlando game, Commissioner Don Garber said a decision on their status for the tournament would likely come on Thursday. If forced to bow out, that would leave group A with five teams, and would likely necessitate moving one of those teams to the Sounders’ group.
  • The opening of the tournament featured a powerful several minutes-long tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement. The league’s black players surrounded the teams for a ceremony where the teams kneeled at the center circle.
  • The national anthem was not played at the start of the game. Commissioner Don Garber previously announced that the anthem would not feature, in part because no fans would be in the stands.