MLS scrambles to alter tourney schedule amid more positive COVID-19 tests

COVID-19 has infiltrated the MLS is Back Tournament bubble again with five members of Nashville SC testing positive and another four producing inconclusive tests.

As a result, Major League Soccer has postponed Nashville’s match against Chicago Fire FC, originally planned as one of the Florida tournament’s two openers Wednesday.

MLS said it will “continue to evaluate Nashville SC’s participation” in the tournament pending results of additional testing.

The news comes one day after FC Dallas was forced to withdraw from the World Cup-style tournament in the wake of 10 players and a coach testing positive for the virus.

Orlando City opens play Wednesday against expansion Inter Miami CF at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports Complex in the Orlando area. The Montreal Impact play the New England Revolution on Thursday.

Toronto FC’s opening game against D.C. United has been moved to Sunday at 9 a.m. ET from 8:30 p.m. Friday in the wake of TFC’s late arrival at the tournament. Toronto was supposed to arrive last Friday but was delayed when additional testing was required in the wake of one member of the travelling party experiencing some symptoms.

All the tests came back negative and the team flew Monday.

Players from all 26 teams tested

The Vancouver Whitecaps open July 15 against San Jose after their opener against Dallas was scrapped.

On Tuesday, Dallas coach Luchi Gonzalez said his players were doing well, adding what happened was inevitable and there was no perfect time to hold the tournament.

“Maybe the perfect or the safest moment is in two years,” he told a virtual conference call. “But is the league going to even be in existence in two years? Probably not if we had to wait that long.

The league said two of the Nashville players got their confirmed positive results on the weekend with three more getting the news Monday night. The four others were to undergo further tests in the wake of their inconclusive test results.

One member of Columbus Crew SC has also tested positive.

Tourney runs through Aug. 11

All 26 teams have now arrived in Orlando with all the players having undergone testing at the league’s host hotel.

Testing results from the five clubs that arrived Monday, including Toronto and Vancouver, were to be available later Tuesday.

The tournament is slated to run through Aug. 11. It marks the league’s first action since play was halted March 12, two weeks into the season, due to the global pandemic.

Friday’s game between the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders will now be played at 9 p.m. ET rather than 10:30 p.m.

Whitecaps’ Fredy Montero opts out of tourney

Vancouver Whitecaps FC forward Fredy Montero and Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha have cited family concerns for their reasons against playing in the MLS is Back Tournament.

Montero, 32, took to Instagram to announce his decision.

“Due to the current situation with Covid-19, I made the hard decision to stay with my wife and daughters in Canada, instead of travelling with the team to Florida,” Montero said. “It was not an easy decision. I truly love what I do for living and have been eagerly waiting to return to the pitch as much as anyone however the health of my family is my number one priority.

“My family and I have had a complicated few months not only with being isolated in Canada without family or friends but also with an unforeseen health emergency. I am deeply disappointed that I won’t be able to help my teammates and I am really sorry about it, but I look forward to reuniting with them when they arrive back.”

Montero has recorded 68 goals and 43 assists in 186 career matches with the Seattle Sounders and Whitecaps.

Montero won’t be the only member of his team to sit out the tournament.

The Whitecaps announced Tuesday that forward Lucas Cavallini, defender/midfielder Georges Mukumbilwa, forward Tosaint Ricketts and midfielder Andy Rose will not be participating in the MLS is Back Tournament.

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