It’s a good thing we like soccer so much around here: Seattle’s sports comeback has been confined to the pitch thus far during the coronavirus pandemic. Tacoma’s OL Reign won its first Challenge Cup match last week, and Sounders FC will open its MLS Is Back Tournament slate tonight against the San Jose Earthquakes near Orlando.
The clubs will square off at 6pm PST, which you can be forgiven for not knowing. The tournament schedule has had to be reconfigured multiple times after the withdrawals of FC Dallas and Nashville SC. Both teams suffered coronavirus outbreaks upon reaching the Disney World “bubble” where MLS teams will train and compete against one another over the next month.
Many Sounders fans will undoubtedly welcome seeing Nico Lodeiro and the rest of the defending champs take the field tonight. But others are justifiably concerned about the players’ health. The team uprooted from a state that was registering hundreds of Covid-19 cases per day to a state that has recently seen thousands. Sure, players and staff are in a “bubble” that offers greater protections than those available to the population at large, but the pullout of Nashville, which came days after the team arrived in Florida, indicates just how quickly infections can spread even under the best of circumstances (though some tested positive before the team entered the bubble).
Players could have opted out of the tourney, and testing has been rigorous, according to Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer. Are those measures enough to justify supporting a league that has chosen to hold a tournament of questionable significance in a coronavirus hot spot?
It’s a moral quandary that Seattle sports fans should get used to wrestling with. In two weeks the Mariners are planning to travel to Houston for the opener of their abbreviated season. Texas’s case count yesterday? Nearly 10,000.