Minnesota United’s Sunday game at FC Dallas was postponed Saturday night after the team confirmed positive COVID-19 tests from two first-team players.
All club players and staff have been tested three additional times since the first positive test, a team statement released Saturday said. Those same two players were positive, but all other tests came back negative.
The team did not name the two first-team players who tested positive.
Training has been suspended and all players and team staff have gone into quarantine while additional testing and “extensive” contact tracing takes place, the statement said.
Details regarding a rescheduled game day will be announced at a later date during a season reconfigured after a four-month suspension by the pandemic. The regular season is set to end Nov. 8, when the Loons and FC Dallas are scheduled to play for a fourth time in three months.
The Loons were scheduled to fly by chartered aircraft to Dallas on Sunday morning for a 7:30 p.m. game and return that same night. MLS teams have been flying same-day charters in an attempt to minimize exposure to the virus.
On Friday, Loons coach Adrian Heath both praised his players’ responsibility and diligence and cautioned about the situation now that MLS teams are playing regular-season games in their own markets. They are doing so outside the protective bubble under which the league’s midsummer MLS is Back tournament was played so successfully in Orlando.
The NBA and WNBA played out their seasons under similar bubbles in Florida and the NHL at two Canadian sites.
“We’ve done a really good job, all the sports have, within reason,” Heath said in a video conference call held this season two days before his team’s games. “But this is a difficult situation to deal with. We know that. As we’ve said all along, this is going to be a real testing time for everybody.”
Those two Loons who have tested positive were the first to do so since rookie defender Noah Billingsley did before the MLS is Back tournament.
FC Dallas and Nashville SC were sent home as the tournament began after each team experienced viral outbreaks.
The league resumed its regular season in mid-August in teams’ own markets without such a bubble and has dealt with positive tests as needed.
“I honestly don’t think for one minute people have any idea how difficult this year has been for everybody connected with the club,” Heath said before Saturday’s positive tests.
MLS also postponed Sunday’s Columbus Crew-Orlando City game after there were two confirmed cases of coronavirus among the Crew staff.
According to a league statement, “both matches were postponed to ensure the health and safety of all players and staff, allowing for further testing and evaluation prior to travel and competition.”
Colorado had a fourth consecutive game postponed Saturday — against L.A. Galaxy after a fifth Rapids player returned a confirmed positive test since Sept. 23. Thirteen staff members also have tested positive in the same stretch.
“This is something all take seriously,” Heath said Friday. “The bubble obviously works. You look at what went on when we were down there, and you look at what’s gone on with the NBA. Once you leave that environment, it’s incredibly difficult. Players have children who go to school. You have to go about your daily life as best as you can. So far, so good. But we know it’s something we have to keep on to the players.
“It is far more difficult when they’re going about their day-to-day lives. But we ask the players to stay vigilant, do what’s expected of them and don’t put themselves in situations that might leave them exposed. So far they’ve been excellent that way. We know it’s only just around the corner.”
Heath spoke Friday about the possibility that the MLS could end its season as it restarted it in July, this time with playoffs played in a single-destination bubble.
“It’s something we spoke about when down in Disney, could it happen again?” Heath asked. “Obviously, it’s not ideal, having been through it once. If it meant getting games finished and getting the playoffs done in time, if that’s the way it has got to be, then maybe that’s something they’ll consider.
“But I speak for everybody when I say we’d like it to go ahead as normal, where teams that finish with higher seeds get home-field advantage. It’s only fair.”