Major League Soccer suffered a fresh blow over the weekend after a scheduled game between Toronto DC and DC United at the MLS Is Back Tournament in Orlando, Florida, was postponed for the second time.
The game was originally due to take place on July 10 but was pushed back to July 12 at 9am ET after Toronto’s journey to the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex in Orlando, Florida, was delayed due to the need for additional Covid-19 testing in the wake of a player reporting symptoms.
But the rescheduled game was again called off just minutes before kickoff after coronavirus tests produced an initial unconfirmed positive case for a DC United player and an inconclusive test for a Toronto player.
ESPN reported that both follow-up tests for the players were negative while both squads took follow-up tests as a further precaution.
The game is now due to be played on July 13 at 9am ET and broadcast domestically on ESPN2. Toronto FC and DC United’s subsequent games in the tournament have also been pushed back a day to help players prepare.
It is the latest setback for the quarantined tournament, which has already lost two teams – FC Dallas and Nashville SC – due to widespread coronavirus outbreaks, and is being played as Florida on July 12 reported 15,299 new cases of Covid-19, the largest single-day number for any US state since the pandemic began.
“We believe the tournament can still be conducted safely,” MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott told reporters. “And if at the point we determine it can’t, obviously we would make a decision then.
“In the case of Dallas and Nashville, the decision was made that based on the extent of the positive tests in those teams (and) their ability to train, that the more prudent course was to withdraw them. But we had established a set of protocols that are working as they were designed, which is to identify players that have had positive tests for Covid-19, to remove and separate them from the team and isolate them. And to continue the process of testing the other players…We view this (case) as the process working,” Abbott said.
The players, who were forced to wake up early on Sunday morning to prepare for the game, were predictably disappointed that the game was postponed.
DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid tweeted: “To every DC United supporter, our families & friends, I’m sorry you woke up so early to see us play, to then have the match postponed AGAIN.. especially after so many people planned originally to watch the game which was meant to play on Friday! Have a beautiful Sunday regardless.”
Over the weekend, Fox Sports began its coverage of the tournament by using artificial crowd noise in its broadcasts, in contrast to ESPN which has decided to just use natural sounds.