FC Dallas made a sudden departure from the MLS is Back Tournament on Monday, but the decision was far from immediate.
FC Dallas President Dan Hunt spoke to reporters on Monday evening after a slew of statements from MLS, FC Dallas, and the MLS Players’ Association. The Hoops’ withdrawal came before three teams – LAFC, Toronto FC, and Colorado Rapids – had even traveled to Central Florida.
Hunt confirmed that the decision came from the league following several days of talks as his players began a week in quarantine. The players have been prevented from leaving their rooms after ten players and one coach tested positive for COVID-19 since arriving in Orlando on June 27.
“Last week on Wednesday I began having conversations with the league office about where our spread was,” said Dan Hunt. “I was hoping that things were going to slow down, we obviously had to be incredibly proactive again. Everybody’s safety is my top priority. And so we just said ‘look we need you guys to start thinking about it, what moment we may not be able to go forward’ with just not having enough bodies.”
Of the ten players to test positive since arrival, only four featured in more than 20 MLS games in 2019, however the remaining players would certainly be players that would challenge for significant playing time. With an inability to train for a further week prior to the tournament, FC Dallas was at a heightened risk of injury for the 18 remaining available players.
“We risked a lot of muscle injuries and ligament injuries,” said Hunt. “Things that without training and without contact you cannot make up, and so we were in constant contact with the league Friday and Saturday. We said ultimately it’s the league’s decision and our guys are going to fight, but we want them to feel safe. We want them to feel like they’re in the best opportunity to compete and also they’re focused on their long term careers.”
Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber confirmed to ESPN’s Tom Marshall earlier in the day that FC Dallas would still be able to play the three games as part of the revised regular season schedule. The group stage of the MLS is Back Tournament will count towards the MLS regular season standings.
FC Dallas’ next focus is returning to North Texas. No timetable has been given for FCD’s time to exit the Orlando bubble but it is believed that the team will remain at The Swan and Dolphin Resort for another week pending test results.
“There are so many factors that go into this,” said Hunt. “We need to get our traveling party healthy again safe again. And you know when they’re returned and I can’t give you a timeline on that, but that will be coming in the near future.”