MLS players still have health concerns with return to play

The "leap of faith" MLS is asking of more than 2,000 individuals to produce the coming tournament in Orlando might be easier to take had league commissioner Don Garber not threatened to lock out players last week to force an end to CBA negotiations, Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan said.

“The fact that he then came out afterward and said I needed to threaten a lockout to get what they wanted, to me it leaves a really, really bad taste in my mouth,” Guzan said of the resumption of the MLS season. “We are in the middle of a global pandemic and the threat of taking health care away from the player pool, obviously there would be other people involved with a lockout losing their jobs, losing their health care. That hasn’t and doesn’t sit right with me.

“When you go into these talks and negotiations, there has to be a level of trust and a level of professionalism, and I think when you communicate ideas and have real lines of communication, you can get farther down the road. Both parties are able to look at each other and ‘we understand your difficulties. These are ours. Let’s meet in the middle.’ The threat of a lockout was, as one or two other people have put it, it was close to bullying. It wasn’t great.”

Speaking to reporters Wednesday about the Orlando tournament, Garber tried to reassure that the players and others attending will be made as safe as possible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He said the league's medical professionals have worked closely with those from the MLSPA, the federal government and state of Florida to arrive at protocols that must be followed.

Among the steps: Attendees will be tested for COVID-19 every other day for their first two weeks in Orlando, there will be regular temperature screenings (a temperature of more than 100.3 will result in immediate isolation) and mask-protocol and social-distancing guidelines must be followed.

Teams must arrive in Orlando on private charters to minimize contact with others.

All 26 teams will be housed at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando. No other guests will be allowed to stay in the resort during the early stages of the tournament.

Each team will have its own bus to travel back and forth to training and games to minimize contact.

Still, Guzan said there are questions that haven’t been answered by the league.

“I don’t know if anyone truly feels comfortable,” he said.

Among his questions:

What happens when someone tests positive after a game?
 Where do they go?
 Will there be hotel staff coming and going?
 Where do the teams eat? How will that be handled?

Garber said that hotel-staff employees don’t fall under the testing umbrella, but that he doesn’t believe that they will come into contact with the players.

Garber also said that there isn’t a number of positive tests that would cause the league to reconsider continuing the tournament.