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Atlanta United’s Brooks Lennon expects to play games with ‘full confidence and safety’

March 8, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco celebrates his goal with Anton Walkes for a 1-0 lead over FC Cincinnati in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
March 8, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco celebrates his goal with Anton Walkes for a 1-0 lead over FC Cincinnati in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

One team, FC Dallas, already has been bounced out of the bubble that is the MLS tournament in Orlando because of COVID-19. Another, Nashville, may be on a similar path.

But Atlanta United fullback Brooks Lennon said Wednesday that once the games start and he faces players on other teams, he won’t have any concerns about his health or safety. Atlanta United’s (2-0-0)  first game back is scheduled for Saturday against the New York Red Bulls.

“I know, just based off the amount of testing that we are doing here in the bubble, by the times the game start, the opponents aren’t really my main concerns,” he said. “I think, hopefully, everyone is still testing negative on a regular basis. We can go into these games with full confidence and safety.”

March 8, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon works against FC Cincinnati Juergen Locadia in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta.   Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com
March 8, 2020 Atlanta: Atlanta United defender Brooks Lennon works against FC Cincinnati Juergen Locadia in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, March 8, 2020, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com

Credit: Curtis Compton

Credit: Curtis Compton

Manager Frank de Boer said Tuesday that Atlanta United’s personnel had been tested three times since arriving in Orlando on the Fourth of July. There have been no positive tests, he said.

Two of the league’s prominent players, LAFC’s Carlos Vela, who is the reigning MLS MVP, and Ike Opara, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, made the decision not to enter the bubble for different reasons. Vela’s wife is pregnant.  Opara is rehabbing a pre-existing condition. Additionally, five of Vancouver’s players have also declined to participate.

The league made FC Dallas withdraw Monday after 10 players and another member of the team tested positive.  A report stated that Dallas had a going-away party before it traveled to Orlando. On Tuesday, the league rescheduled Nashville’s opening game against Chicago in the tournament from July 8 to a date to be announced. Five Nashville players have tested positive since it arrived in Orlando. Four players have received inconclusive test results.

De Boer said Monday that he thinks his players feel safe while in the bubble.

“It’s not extra stress, but we realize that we have to take care of each other for the health and safety of everyone,” Ezequiel Barco said on a Zoom call Wednesday.

Lennon said something similar, stressing that their focus is on the point of the competition: to win.

“There have been a lot of hiccups since teams started to arrive in the bubble,” he said. “Definitely difficult, challenging times. Hoping it stays to the end and we can bring some silverware or whatever it may be back to Atlanta.”