In the bubble, Union turn focus to their MLS return

Photo: Earl Gardner

If all goes according to plan, the Philadelphia Union will play first MLS match in nearly four months in less than a week.

The team passed their first test — testing — on Friday morning in Orlando, Fla., when the results of the COVID-19 tests performed on the Union’s traveling party came back negative, clearing them to begin training this evening in advance of the MLS is Back Tournament.

That step isn’t insubstantial. Several MLS teams have either had problems once arriving at the tournament — several players on FC Dallas, as well as at least one on Columbus, have reportedly tested positive — or have had their charter flights delayed due to testing problems — among others, Nashville SC and New York Red Bulls.

But the Union have had no such problems.

Manager Jim Curtin, speaking to the press on Friday afternoon, praised his players, staff, and the state of Pennsylvania for their efforts taking the coronavirus seriously, noting that the club has gone three months without any players or staff testing positive.

Now, the challenge is staying safe and adjusting to life in the MLS “bubble” at the Wide World of Sports Complex.

Curtin praised the efficiency of the bubble’s testing setup — jokingly likening it to the efficiency with which a Disney theme park separates parents from their money — and emphasized that his team would need to approach the challenges of the bubble with a positive attitude.

“We don’t know exactly what the future holds,” Curtin pointed out. “What I do know is that, as you walk around this bubble, every precaution is being taken.”

The team will have its first training session in Orlando at 7 p.m. this evening. Training over the next few days will include a couple of 8 a.m. sessions — an attempt to prepare the team for their first match of the tournament, an unusual 9 a.m. kickoff.

That match is on Thursday against NYC FC, a team that Curtin called the best, on paper, in the Eastern Conference.

The club traveled to Orlando yesterday afternoon, leaving their training complex in Chester with a send-off from Union fans lining Flower Street to salute the team bus.

Fans were socially distanced and in masks, as is required during the pandemic. Curtin noted that the fans will be missed in Florida, far from the imposing environs of Subaru Park.

But he made sure to thank the fans for coming out to show their support, even if they won’t be able to cheer on the team on-site during the Orlando tournament.

“It feels real now,” the Union manager said. “It feels like the start of the competition.”

Other notes
  • Not a ton of team news coming out of the press conference. Everyone on the roster is in Florida, save for Cory Burke, who’s wrapping up his loan in Austria before returning to Jamaica and then, hopefully, the United States. The immigration situation seems complicated there, and he won’t be a participant in the MLS is Back Tournament, as Ernst Tanner confirmed earlier this week.
  • As he has in the last few press conferences, Curtin singled out Jose Martinez (“an animal”) and Jamiro Monteiro as players who’ve raised their level since preseason. My read: expect El Brujo to be in the lineup for the first match of the tournament, at least.
  • Curtin also again praised Jack de Vries, the Homegrown midfielder who’s yet to make his first team debut. It sounds like that debut will come at some point during the Orlando tournament, even if Curtin expressed disappointment that he wouldn’t be able to get de Vries his debut in front of a raucous Subaru Park crowd.

One Comment

  1. Dallas-Vancouver match on 7/9 officially postponed. Would it be the worst thing to have our time changed to 10:30? Know it’s only fair to have each team in our group play a 9am match, but there’s always hope.

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