Defenders Dave Romney and Dan Lovitz arrive at their Orlando hotel in simpler times. Courtesy Nashville SC/MLS.
As halftime approached in last night’s MLS is Back tournament-opening game between Orlando City SC and Inter Miami CF, we thought we were about to receive some clarity. An ESPN interview with Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber was on the way.
Nashville SC has been the second-hardest-hit team in MLS when it comes to testing for the novel coronavirus inside MLS’s “bubble” on the Disney property in Orlando. Nashville SC had five positives confirmed by the League entering Wednesday evening, with several more looming as potential positives. The only team worse-hit, FC Dallas, was already sent packing after 10 positive tests to players and one more to team staff.
Alas, Garber did not provide much in the way of an answer – in one direction or the other.
“Obviously, these are our players, and we don’t want anybody to be sick with COVID – whether they have symptoms or they’re asymptomatic,” Garber said. “We came up with this system, with this protocol, to test everybody as they were coming in to Orlando. They had testing while they went through training, which started last month, and the whole concept was to ensure that we were catching any infections as they were coming into Orlando. And that’s what’s happening with Dallas, and that’s what has been happening with Nashville.
“We are working very closely with our ID [infectious diseases] doctors: we’re going to meet with them after tonight’s game, and if we find that we have a situation with Nashville where they can’t continue in the tournament, then we’ll make that decision overnight and move forward from there.
“What I will say is that the concept of all of this testing of our players, as you saw wearing masks, of the sanitization of all of our facilities, is something that was put in place so we could understand what is happening when it does happen, and be able to move forward with the tournament in a very safe and healthy way.”
Not much detail there, aside from promising(ish) some sort of final(ish) choice today(ish).
The latest numbers from League testing were released shortly after the conclusion of Orlando City’s 2-1 victory over Inter Miami: Four new confirmed positives from within the bubble, two each from two separate teams.
While the League is not typically giving team-by-team information on the tests (aside from Tuesday afternoon’s Nashville-specific update), it’s safe to assume that one of the teams with two positive tests is Nashville SC. That bumps the team to seven confirmed positives. We don’t know the fate of the four potential positives from Tuesday’s update, but there are a handful of options:
- The assumption is false that two of the confirmed positives come from Nashville SC. The team does not have any new confirmations, and all four players are either cleared or still pending follow-up tests.
- One of those players is now a confirmed positive, the other three are cleared or still pending, and a new player on NSC (not previously considered a “potential positive”) is now a confirmed positive. Alternatively, all four are cleared or pending, while two new NSC players are positive. This would probably be worst-case scenario because it indicates team spread, or a wider outbreak within the team upon arrival than initially detected (American Soccer Analysis can help you understand how that would be the case).
- Two of the four Nashville players have had their positive tests confirmed, the other two are either cleared or still waiting on final results.
What we do know, based on the information available Tuesday morning and then afternoon, is that the League is not waiting on potential positive tests to be cleared up – one way or the other – before announcing confirmed cases: it had looked like some of NSC’s players in the former category may have been off the hook after Monday’s round of testing, but in reality, MLS was releasing only information on the latter category, regardless of how many tests were still waiting in limbo.
So… we continue waiting. My reporting indicates Nashville SC traveled with 28 players to Orlando (I previously said 29 on social media, that’s my mistake), so if the squad loses seven players… that’s not ideal! If it ends up being more than that, I have a really hard time seeing them able to field a full squad for three games. Even before getting into the bigger issues of playing a contact sport in the midst of a pandemic while there are potentially asymptomatic (and as-yet undetectable) cases of the virus in question, the team’s chances to remain in The Bubble are not looking so rosy.