The Philadelphia Union were scheduled to host their 2020 MLS regular season home opener on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes before Major League Soccer made the decision to postpone activities for 30 days. Now with the club waiting until Monday to see if they can reconvene at the Power Training Complex in Chester, the focus remains on safety of all club personnel and players going forward.
“The Philadelphia Union fully respect and honor the decision made by Major League Soccer to postpone games at this time.,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “We look forward for our first game at Subaru Park in front of our fans, but we have to ensure the safety of all our of players and staff first. It’s an interesting situation we are in, there seems to be an adjustment made to it everyday. Our players have been instructed to stay away from the Power Training Complex and Subaru Park until they hear further on Monday.”
As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) epidemic continues to make its impact around the globe, the Union have to wait to see what can happen next. Not only did MLS postpone its schedule, but it joined the likes of the MLB, NBA, NHL, XFL, and NCAA in doing so. No official decision has been made on the cancellation of the 2020 season with only two Matchdays in the books.
Philadelphia Union’s statement on the impact of COVID-19 & @MLS suspension of play.
— Philadelphia Union (@PhilaUnion) March 12, 2020
Internationally, Soccer Federations have postponed their respective league until at least April with the English Premier League, German Bundesliga, French Ligue 1, Italian Serie A, and Spanish La Liga all taking action. Concacaf also postponed the upcoming Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which was set to begin on March 20th in Guadalajara, Mexico. Union players Brenden Aaronson, Mark McKenzie, and Matt Freese were selected to the U.S. Under-23 Men’s National Team, but returned home on Friday morning after Concacaf made their decision.
“Mark, Brenden, and Matt were on the flight back from Mexico last night and arrived this morning in Philadelphia,” Curtin said. “They took the precautions of purchasing masks to wear in the airports and on the plane.”
“They were instructed to take the necessary precautions when flying as everyone should be doing right now. Unless they have the symptoms of the virus, then there won’t be any testing or quarantining of those three players as they come back from Mexico.”
Like MLS, Concacaf will reconvene later this month to make a decision in regards to the Olympic Qualifying Tournament and the Concacaf Champions League (which four MLS teams remain participating in). There has been no decision yet in regards to postponing the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Curtin understands the need for safety during this troubled time and knows a decision has to be made soon in order for preparation purposes.
“There will need to be a decision made in regards to the Olympics, it’s a very financial event every time is occurs,” Curtin said. “I’m just the coach of the Union, and I do not know what the future holds for Concacaf and for MLS. I’m sure you all will know when I do. We can’t risk the health of people for it.”
This is the first major cancellation to the MLS schedule since the September 11th attacks in 2001, which caused numerous matches to be cancelled and the playoffs to occur sooner than expected. Both instances are completely different, but have affected the country in a frantic way. Curtin admits it could be just the beginning of what could occur with the virus that has affected numerous countries around the world.
“We were on the field yesterday [Thursday] preparing like we were going to play our home opener on Saturday and we get the word that the league is postponing for 30 days,” Curtin said. “It’s different circumstances compared to when the league took a break on 9/11. It’s the eerie feeling of the unknown and we don’t really know what this means yet. I think we’re just at the tip of the coronavirus and it’s more of a health issue compared to what happened back in 2001.”
For now, the Union, their USL affiliate Union II, and the club’s Academy have been told to stay away from the Training Facilities in Chester until they hear the latest decision from MLS on Monday. Of course the team wants to be on the field continuing their preparations, but safety is the most important thing at this time.
“As a head coach and a former professional player, we’re always looking to get an advantage on everyone else and now how can we schedule friendlies and games to get prepared for when the season can happen,” Curtin said. “Right now the health has to come first and the soccer has to take a backseat to that. Everyone needs to be safe and take the precautions of staying inside and away from people if you can. For us as a team, we have to wait for more information to come out on Monday to see what we can do next.”
The Union earned a 3-3 draw last Sunday at LAFC in their second regular season match of the season.