MLS će nastaviti redovnu sezonu: što znamo, a što ne

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Editor’s note: This previously-published article has been updated with confirmed details following an službeno saopštenje MLS-a svog povratka da se igra na domaćim tržištima.

In the end, the MLS is Back Tournament bubble worked. Unfortunately for MLS, as teams return to their home markets, they can’t take the bubble with them.

Nakon početnog ispitivanja pozitivnih testova na COVID-19, rezultiralo je povlačenjem FC Dallas i Nashville SC from the tournament, MLS went the past three weeks without a single person inside the bubble in Orlando, Florida, having a confirmed positive test. A tournament that began with immense tension is set to conclude on a triumphant note with Tuesday’s final between Orlando City SC a Portland Timbers (8:XNUMX ET; stream LIVE na ESPN).

« What we’re seeing from sports leagues is what the effects are of more testing, » said Dr. Abraar Karan, a physician at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital working on COVID-19 response in Massachusetts. « You actually pick up cases and you may even influence people’s behaviors knowing that they are accountable to the test. And then you have this component of the basic public health measures like wearing a mask, social distancing, avoiding contact with people in the community as much as possible. So it’s a great thing that there have been no more cases. »

MLS je odlučan u napredovanju s planovima ne samo da nastavi svoju sezonu, već iu nekim slučajevima to učini pred fanovima. To je odluka koja prijeti dobrim radom u posljednjih nekoliko tjedana. Liga je u subotu objavila da je, nakon zaključenja MLS-a Natrag turnir, redovni raspored sezona ponovno započet u srijedu kada Dallas i Nashville igraju prvu od tri šminke igre (8:30 ET, stream LIVE na ESPN +) propustili su u Orlandu. Drugi je zakazan za kolovoz. 16.

Izvori su potvrdili da će nakon zaključenja MLS-a turnir uzvrat, MLS nastaviti s ligaškim rasporedom srijedom kada će Dallas i Nashville igrati prvu od tri igre šminkanja koje su propustile u Orlandu. Još jedan zakazan je za kolovoz. 16.

Dallas je objavio planove za igranje Nashville igara pred navijačima, čiji kapacitet je ograničen na 5,100 ljudi. Ali Garber je novinarima rekao da liga te planove nije odobrila.

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A source with knowledge of the situation indicated that around five teams are considering the idea, and must submit plans that adheres to local restrictions as well as those of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But recent months have shown that local restrictions aren’t always sufficient to stop community spread. Fans will also be required to wear masks and adhere to social distancing, but such requirements were imposed in the USL when fans were allowed to attend games, and the observance of such protocols was decidedly uneven.

« We believe that it is smart for us to consider it, and not take the decision, at this point, to have a blanket rule to prevent it from happening, » said Garber. « I will say that clubs need to submit their plans and those plans need to be in accordance with those guidelines in order for us to give them the nod to go forward. »

He later added, « Our fans want to support their clubs and if they’re permitted to attend sports events in other sports or other activities, we are willing to work with our clubs, if they’re going to abide by those guidelines to see if we could have them attend our games. So playing matches with fans in local markets is a step towards some sense of what the new normal in sports is going to be. We have to start. We have to give it a try. »

Karan je bio nedvosmislen da je dopuštanje navijača da prisustvuju grešci.

« This is a continuation of sport seeking profits at the negligence of public health, » he said. « We know that while being outdoors helps, crowds are not ideal at all. And I think it also gives the wrong signal to people that they should feel like it’s safe or OK to be going to games right now when there’s a large part of this country that needs to be really seriously thinking about like a three- to four-week lockdown to get any hope of getting transmission under control as we head into the winter. I think it’s a complete mistake. »

MLS je također objavio da će ostatak lige nastaviti igrati na ili oko vikenda u kolovozu. 21. Prva faza rasporeda sastojat će se od šest utakmica i regionalizirana, uključujući i u Kanada, gdje ostaje 14-dnevni karantenski period za ljude koji ulaze u zemlju iz Sjedinjenih Država. Kad god je to moguće, timovi će koristiti čarter letove u nastojanju da izbjegnu noćenja daleko od svog rodnog grada. Kasnije će se igrati još dvanaest utakmica tako da će svaka momčad do kraja regularne sezone igrati 23 utakmice.

Rasporedom prve faze na takav način, MLS želi kupiti vrijeme u nadi da će do jeseni vladina ograničenja biti ublažena, a velika okupljanja ili duga putovanja bit će opet izvediva.

But in the battle between hope and COVID-19, too often the virus has held the upper hand. While MLS teams were inside the bubble, cases and deaths surged in parts of the country in the wake of loosening restrictions, and several states hosting at least one MLS team — like Washington, Texas, Florida and Georgia — are coping with a high volume of cases.

Prema The New York Times, 8. srpnja, na dan kada je započeo MLS, sedmodnevni prosjek smrti bio je 591. Do kolovoza. 6, ta je oznaka bila 1,022. Gruzija bilježi sedmodnevni prosjek od 30 novih slučajeva dnevno na 100,000 stanovnika, per per Washington Post — the second-worst mark in the country. Texas checks in with the sixth-highest mark, with 28. Florida is at 27, seventh in the country.

Meanwhile, as MLS and leagues like the National Women’s Soccer League, the NBA and the NHL thrived inside of contained environments, other leagues operating outside of a bubble suffered. Major League Baseball was plagued by a series of postponements due to clusters of positive tests in the Miami Marlins i St. Louis Cardinals organizacijama. Bliži nogometnom svijetu slična dinamika odvijala se u drugoligaškom USL prvenstvu. LA Galaxy II, rezervni tim LA Galaxy, imao 11 igrača s potvrđenim pozitivnim testovima, što je rezultiralo otkazivanjem dvije utakmice. Prema ovom pisanju, liga je odgodila ukupno 11 utakmica.

Those sobering realities aren’t stopping MLS, which is determined to resume the season all while trying to keep players and staff free of COVID-19. MLS’ stance is that it has learned plenty from being in the bubble, and feels capable of creating a safe enough environment for players that the league should move forward.

« As we finalize our plans for returning to play in markets, as we have been here in Orlando, we will be highly focused on the health and safety of all of the participants, » Abbott said. « We will be using what we learned here in Orlando, which is the importance of testing frequently to identify any individuals who may be exposed to the virus so that they can be isolated and cared for. But equally important we will focus on ensuring people continue with practices to help keep them safe, which involves wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, social distancing. If we find at any time that that’s not working, we’ll address it. »

It’s a challenge that is both new and familiar. Prior to the tournament, MLS gradually ramped up practices from individual sessions to full team training. An argument can be made that the approach had considerable vulnerabilities. By the end of June, 18 players from around the league tested positive. That was followed by additional cases with Dallas and Nashville taking place just as the tournament was about to start. It was only once teams got inside the controlled environment of the bubble that matters stabilized.

Now those players will be back in their home markets, where the vulnerabilities are the same as they were before MLS is Back. The good news is that after spending considerable time in the bubble, as well as seeing teammates test positive, the protocols have become more ingrained in the players’ everyday lives. That makes player responsibility less of an issue than it might be for other leagues that are in the process of acclimatizing themselves to playing games amid the pandemic.

Golman Inter Miamija Luis Robles podsjetio kako su bila dva pozitivna slučaja unutar tima prije odlaska u MLS je Back Tournament. Iako se dalje nije širilo, iskustvo je odnijelo kući potrebu za sljedećim protokolima.

« You could tell that there was definitely a greater observance [after the positives] when it comes to wearing a mask, socially distancing, disinfecting, » Robles said. « And it wasn’t just the players. It was the entire staff, the entire organization. »

Ta se disciplina širi i na kućni život, a Robles je dodao da je morao reći svom sinu da će ove godine igrati nogomet umjesto nogometa u nastojanju da umanji rizik od širenja COVID-19 u zajednici.

The downside of playing games in home markets is that most players and staff will spend significantly more time out in their communities than they have during the tournament, increasing their vulnerability, although the level of risk varies. In a locale that doesn’t have a high level of community transmission, the risk is relatively low. The opposite is true in counties that are experiencing high levels of transmission. Throw travel into the mix and the level of risk increases, even as MLS tries to minimize overnight stays and use charter flights.

« What we see in the health care industry is that the majority of people who get exposures or have [COVID-19] are not getting it in hospitals, where there are procedures and policies in place. It’s happening in communities, » said Dr. Steven Pergam, an infectious disease expert at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, who counts himself a Seattle Sounders FC fan. « So I think that’s the issue, that you can control what you can control during travel, but it’s also home environments and what they do outside of work that is not easy to fix. »

Karan added, « Home-based transmission is a big deal, because in the home, you’re not wearing a mask. You’re not social distancing. You’re sleeping in the same bed as your spouse. So if your spouse is in the community — even if you’re not — everyone she’s exposed to you can consider yourself exposed to, or your kids or your other family members that may come to your house now. Now the risk profile is exponentially greater. »

There’s also the additional challenge of game day operations in each MLS city. A source with knowledge of the situation said that much like it did at MLS is Back, the league will institute a tiered system of access at stadiums, the better to insulate players and coaches from the community. Doing so successfully will require an immense level of communication to those staffers who didn’t live the bubble experience. And if fans are allowed to attend, the complications increase significantly.

One aspect that MLS is considering is to follow Major League Baseball’s lead and make greater use of what is called a rapid point of care test. The nasal swab tests used in Florida had a turnaround time of about 12 hours. The rapid test is less accurate than the nasal swab test, but it can return results in a matter of minutes. That kind of speed can help further lessen the chances of a cluster of cases within a team.


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Former Orlando City captain Kaka evaluates the Lions’ run at MLS is Back and recalls playing for Adrian Heath.

No, primjenom takvog testa postavlja se šire pitanje o raspodjeli sredstava za zdravstvenu zaštitu. U zemlji u kojoj može potrajati tjedan dana da se dobiju rezultati ispitivanja COVID-19, je li prikladno posvetiti toliko propusne širine testiranju profesionalnim sportovima, posebno uslijed porasta u slučajevima?

« I have some real reservations about how a lot of this money going to elite athletes, » Pergam said. « I think there’s a lot of value in sports, and the thinking is it provides people an outlet to sort of feel like life is back and there’s normality, though I’m not sure that’s really true. I think it’s also really important to think about the consequences and what this feels like on a national level when testing is really challenging. It does feel as though there’s certain populations that are getting really a lot of access compared to other places in the country that have very little. That doesn’t feel fair. »

There’s also the question of long-term side effects of COVID-19. The case of 27-year-old Boston Red Sox bacač Eduardo Rodriguez, Koji je propustit će ostatak sezone nakon što je razvio srčano stanje kao rezultat borbe sa COVID-19, has garnered plenty of attention, and done plenty to undercut the argument that young athletes don’t suffer any downside in contracting the virus. There have also been izvještaji o oštećenju mozga bolesnika sa COVID-19 bez obzira na ozbiljnost njihove infekcije.

« You don’t want to look at COVID only in terms of whether or not it kills you, » Karan said. « Because if it disables you, or makes the rest of your life one where you have symptoms of shortness of breath, or fatigue or whatever, then you would really have wished you didn’t get it. Especially if you’re an athlete, and that has any functional effect on your performance.

« We don’t know how long this lasts in terms of symptoms or why certain people have much longer symptoms than others or why certain people’s bodies react a certain way. While we’re figuring this out, I just don’t think it makes sense to put anybody on the line as guinea pigs, especially not athletes who really are dependent on their physical health more than an average person. »

Treba li sezona uopće nastaviti, pogotovo s obzirom na stanje pandemije u SAD-u? MLS je jasno odlučio da to treba. Jedan od izvora rekao je da liga ima plan A, plan B i plan C, s tim da je plan C jedan gdje liga otkazuje sezonu.

Nakon svog iskustva u balonu, Robles kaže kako vjeruje ligi da donese najbolju odluku.

« If they find a way for us to play in-market, and constantly observe what’s going on and monitor the sort of protocols that exist and provide the safe environment in which we can play, then I’m on board for that, » he said. « If they called the season right now and said, ‘OK, 2020 is done,’ I’m OK with that as well. »

Perhaps a better question is: Given the rates of infection across the country — and that includes MLS cities — is MLS better off waiting until the intensity of the pandemic lessens? A source with knowledge of the league’s thinking said that the future impact of COVID-19 is so uncertain, the league feels it is impossible to pinpoint when would be the best time to resume play. For now, MLS is confident that what is in place will work. That doesn’t lessen the concern of some medical professionals.

« I am concerned that maybe this is a time frame that is too early, and we need more information, » Pergam said. « I’m not sure what is the cutoff to say, ‘Let’s move forward.’ I just worry that what happens with COVID is that you don’t actually know there’s a problem until there’s a problem, and it’s already out of the box. »

Kutija je doista otvorena. MLS se nada da će njegovo izlaganje COVID-19 i dalje biti moguće.

Ovaj je članak prvo prikazan (na engleskom)

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