MLS players and staff are staying in a “closed environment” at Swan and Dolphin Hotel on Disney property outside Orlando, and access is extremely limited. Steven Goff/Washington Post

 

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The efforts by MLS to restart a season amid a pandemic experienced another setback Tuesday when the league announced Nashville’s first match had been postponed because of a team outbreak and it would “continue to evaluate” the expansion team’s participation in the troubled summer tournament.

Nashville’s problems came a day after FC Dallas was forced out of the competition because 10 players and one staff member had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The month-long tournament is scheduled to start Wednesday night at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex with Orlando City playing Inter Miami. Nashville was supposed to play the late-night match against the Chicago Fire. No new date was announced.

Also, D.C. United’s scheduled opener Friday night was moved to Sunday morning because its opponent, Toronto FC, was twice-delayed in traveling to Florida because of health issues at home.

Five Nashville players have tested positive since arriving in Florida and four others are undergoing further testing after inconclusive results, the league said.

One player from a third club, reportedly the Columbus Crew, also was positive among almost 600 players tested as of Sunday, the league said. (Several players who tested positive the past few months in their home markets have recovered.)

Those with COVID-19 are treated in an isolated area of the Swan and Dolphin Hotel, which is housing more than 1,000 players, staff and league officials.

Philadelphia Union Coach Jim Curtin, whose team is scheduled to play Nashville next week, said, “In the back of everyone’s head, as human beings, there is a little bit of concern. … The league has followed every safety protocol possible and made us as safe as possible. They are doing everything they can to get this tournament under way.”

On Monday, MLS Commissioner Don Garber told the Associated Press, “If there is a situation at any time that I believe that the protocols aren’t working, and the health and safety of our players is at risk, then I will make the decision to shut down the tournament.”

The hotel is off-limits to the general public, a so-called “bubble” designed to prevent illness. It’s unclear whether the illnesses dodged detection before the teams left their home markets or were contracted in Florida, which has seen a major spike in cases the past two weeks.

All teams flew charters to Orlando. Spectators are not allowed to attend the tournament.

At the league hotel, security checkpoints dot the access roads and signs instruct pedestrians not to proceed onto the grounds. Buses carry players to workouts 3 miles away, rumbling under the Disney gondola and past exits to the theme parks, which will reopen this weekend.

Teams have their own areas in the hotel, including meeting rooms, but players cross paths in common areas. MLS and Disney have declined repeated requests detailing how hotel workers are screened or tested.

MLS’ measures – extensive testing both in home markets before the teams arrived on private charters and additional testing during their stay – have not proved perfect.

On Monday, FC Dallas was forced to withdraw and Nashville’s participation was thrown into doubt. Nashville has not practiced in more than a week.

On Tuesday, four Vancouver players opted out of the tournament, citing the coronavirus.

The Colorado Rapids delayed their trip because of testing issues. As of Monday night, every team had arrived.

“In the world we are in right now, it’s only going to run so smoothly,” United Coach Ben Olsen said before the team traveled last Friday. “So that has to be the expectation going into this.”

Los Angeles FC was among the last to arrive. Its star forward, 2019 league MVP Carlos Vela, opted out of the tournament because his wife is pregnant. Updates from Orlando were taken seriously.

“Of course, we are concerned,” Coach Bob Bradley said. “There are big challenges to this type of a situation in a bubble.”

Asked whether he was for or against the tournament taking place, Bradley said, “The way it was laid out, there wasn’t much to choose from. I am not sure I agree with that. … We’re excited to play games. Yes, there are concerns.”

The NBA will also create a bubble for its teams at Disney resorts and resume the season at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex late this month.

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