FC Dallas looked to have established a firm footing in their season by the beginning of July.
In true 2020 fashion, all plans have been thrown out of the window because of the pandemic. COVID-19 has brought things to hold for many aspects of life include soccer.
MLS has announced that they will return to play in a World-Cup style tournament.
FC Dallas was one of the first teams to arrive in Orlando for the MLS is Back Tournament and has had multiple players and a coach test positive for COVID-19 (at time of publication).
With many teams also reporting positive cases both in Orlando and in their respective home cities, questions have been asked about whether it would be appropriate to proceed with the tournament.
The Case For
At the end of the day, FC Dallas and MLS are businesses. The pandemic has tested and financial stability of many businesses as MLS reported that they would lose $1 billion in revenue as a result of the pandemic. FC Dallas announced a two-month 20% pay-cut FC Dallas announced a two-month 20% pay-cut in efforts to minimize their losses. Ideally, by participating in the tournament, FC Dallas should earn revenue from the TV contract with ESPN/TUDN and/or prize money earned in the tournament. With cases rising in the country, this may be the only soccer that MLS gets to play in 2020 with many hoping for a full season come 2021. By playing in this tournament, FC Dallas has the chance to ease any financial struggles that they are facing.
FC Dallas is a young and exciting team full of players with high potential. Luchi Gonzalez looked to build upon the foundation that he had built upon his first year in charge. After being eliminated in the first round of the 2019 MLS Playoffs against Seattle, the club and fans alike had high hopes for a successful 2020 season. The MLS is Back Tournament provides fans an opportunity to observe the project that is being built at FC Dallas. It also allows Luchi Gonzalez and his team a chance to face against Seattle once again for a shot at the top stop in their group. Luchi Gonzalez will be hoping that his team can come out victorious in this tournament earning a decent amount of prize money and a CONCACAF Champions League spot. Any player will tell you that they want to be playing soccer and fans will want to be watching their players take to the field and represent their club. With the MLS is Back Tournament taking on the format of the World Cup, FC Dallas does have a decent shot of not only making it out of the group stage but make a deep run in the tournament.
It’s been said plenty of times that “Sport is the most important unimportant thing.” Soccer has returned with the Bundesliga, Serie A, and the Premier League being a few leagues attempting to quench the soccer thirst of fans. The NWSL has returned to play in the Challenge Cup here in the US and MLS looks to follow suit. There is a longing for a sense of normalcy in the age of the pandemic and the MLS is Back Tournament provides games that fans (and media) have been longing for.
The Case Against
With FC Dallas having recorded positive COVID-19 results Luchi Gonzalez has stressed that the safety of the players and staff is of importance. In the “Orlando Bubble,” a positive case does have the possibility of spreading rapidly if not taken care of.
While Coach Gonzalez has stated that positive individuals have been moved to another wing of the hotel, one cannot help but be concerned about further infections.
.@FCDallas manager Luchi Gonzalez confirms to ESPN that the entire team has been quarantined in their rooms for 6 days in an abundance of caution following the positive Covid tests earlier in the week. Players and coach who tested positive remain isolated in another wing of hotel
— Stefano Fusaro (@S_Fusaro) July 5, 2020
FC Dallas has not been the only team impacted by multiple positive cases in Orlando.
Reporting with @samstejskal: Nashville SC has had five players test positive since arriving in Orlando on Friday, per sources. One upon arrival, four more since. Last four need to be confirmed by follow-ups.
Nashville hasn’t trained since Tuesday. Set to play Fire on Wednesday.
— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) July 5, 2020
While it may not have been entirely unexpected to have seen positive tests in Orlando, the risk of constant exposure to subsequent infection is concerning. The idea behind the “Orlando Bubble” does have its merit: contain players in an environment that can mitigate exposure and infections. Questions have been asked whether players should have been placed in the “Bubble” at a minimum 14-days before the start of the tournament to better treat positive cases.
While the “Bubble” makes sense in trying to contain personnel and positive cases, it does also have the ability for a rapid increase of cases if mishandled. As more testing is done as teams arrive in Orlando, the early days will dictate the success or failure of the “Orlando Bubble.”
Along with the management of cases in the early days, the “Bubble” requires a working system. Some players have taken to social media to provide insight into what the environment is like in Orlando and many have taken note of the meal situation.
— Omar Gonzalez (@Omar4Gonzalez) June 30, 2020
Similarly, there has been a description of the system within Orlando as well
— Diego Rubio (@DiegoRubio_) July 5, 2020
Any idea can sound great on paper, but it does require proper execution. While it is hard to get all the details of the exact situation in Orlando, again, proper execution within the early days as teams continue to arrive will determine how the “Bubble” plays out.
On a more positive note, Kobra has taken to living his DJ dream
Welcome to Orlando's hottest club… pic.twitter.com/qIAa1H7Ink
— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) June 29, 2020
FC Dallas has already announced that they will play their opening match, originally scheduled for July 9th against Vancouver, at a later date. This makes their first match occurring on July 15th against Seattle Sounders.
Finding the best method of playing soccer during a pandemic is no easy task. MLS has found a chance to do so and it is a matter of proper execution.
Should the tournament continue or not? What is the best way of handling the tournament?
As 2020 has already shown, there tend to be more questions than answers.
Let’s hope for the best scenario.
Featured Image: FC Dallas