For the first time since the COVID-19 shutdown began, MLS players were able to train on an individual basis at club facilities today.
The league opened facilities for clubs in markets not under a stay-at-home order. Because Illinois remains under a stay-at-home order through May, Chicago Fire players were not able to return to SeatGeek Stadium to train.
For teams taking part, players had to remain in their cars until a team official flagged them to have their temperature taken. Then, they had to wash their hands before visiting a designated portion of a field, where they had to train alone. Weight rooms and locker rooms were closed, and players had to wear masks everywhere but the on the field.
For Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler, it felt good to put on his cleats, and get back on the field. He said he spent a good chunk of time juggling a soccer ball.
“We were able to do a lot of things we aren’t able to do at home,” Besler told reporters on a conference call. “You can have a treadmill or a bike at home, or you can even go on a longer run sometimes through your neighborhood, but it’s really hard to get the sprints and the change of direction, and so that’s what this opportunity is providing a lot of us, which is awesome.”
Besler said players would need a minimum of three or four weeks of team training before they would be ready for games.
Sporting KC coach Peter Vermes said the idea of opening facilities for individual workouts came from players who felt like practicing in public parks actually carried more risk than going back to the facilities, especially for more famous players who would attract attention from fans.
“There’s absolutely no connection between two players,” Sporting KC head coach Peter Vermes said. “We’ve spaced it out to four to a field. They would have incredible social distancing, probably anywhere from 30 to 50 yards apart at any given time. So, we feel very comfortable that we’re able to provide them with a very safe environment.”
There’s no word yet from the Chicago Fire on whether local officials will allow Fire players to return to Bridgeview for individual training. But, with only four clubs taking part today, the vast majority of clubs are in the same position. The league wide moratorium on full team training runs through May 15.