Empty seats are seen in the Signal Iduna Park without spectators during the German Bundesliga soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke 04 in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, May 16, 2020. The German Bundesliga becomes the world's first major soccer league to resume after a two-month suspension because of the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Heinz Buese, Pool)
Photo: Heinz Buese/AP
Photo: Heinz Buese/AP

Bundesliga reopening a possible preview of MLS return

Though at times it looked odd because of the safety precautions, the return of live soccer with Germany’s top league resuming action amid the COVID-19 pandemic shows that there is a path forward for MLS, according to Atlanta United’s Brad Guzan. 

“It was encouraging to see those games being played, and at the same time there are certainly a lot of steps that need to be taken by league officials, by club officials to make sure that player safety is at the top of everyone’s priority list,” he said. 

Guzan and teammate Brooks Lennon noted several things that were different, which may provide foreshadowing of MLS’s protocols for a return. The league hasn’t played since early March because the season was suspended.

More than two months later, with the return of the Bundesliga, Lennon watched Borussia Dortmund’s first goal, scored by Erling Haland in the 29th minute, in an eventual 4-0 win over Schalke. 

“Watched the celebration and totally forgot that they can’t embrace each other,” he said. “Good to see that they are taking all of the safety precautions. It’s weird to see on TV because we are all not used to seeing that.” 

Should MLS return with similar social-distancing rules in place, Lennon said he’s confident that Atlanta United will figure out a unique celebration that doesn’t run afoul of the rules. 

Another oddity was when one player was subbed off, he couldn’t embrace, or touch, the player coming on. 

“It’s definitely going to be weird and a new normal, but we have to get used to it in order to get back playing,” Lennon said. 

Lastly, there were no supporters in the stands. Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park seats 81,365. It is one of few in the world that seats more than Atlanta United’s home of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And Signal Iduna Park always is full.

So seeing the stands occupied by only subs who were spaced at least six feet apart as well as by other members of the coaching staffs and training staffs, with no one else wearing the black and yellow, was bizarre.

If MLS decides there can be no supporters, Guzan said it would be a negative factor for Atlanta United, which has led the league in average attendance the past three seasons, with more than 52,000 per game.

“We are lucky with the support and atmosphere and energy in our stadium,” he said. “To miss out on that, that’s a huge factor for us. 

“Safety of everybody involved in a game-day operation has to be the main priority.  We are all eager to get back. We want to get back in a safe and responsible way. If it means fans can’t take part, it’s a massive blow to us.” 

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