“The decision to have them not participate in the tournament is in the best interests of everyone, of the Dallas players and the other 25 teams, and allows us to continue to manage the health and safety of our players while continuing to go forward with our plan,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber told The Associated Press in a telephone interview on Monday.
Apart from the health and safety aspect, the number of positive cases also meant that Dallas could not play competitive games. “As we continue to focus on the well-being of our players, coaches and staff who are in isolation in Orlando, we understand it is not in their best interests to compete at this time,” coach Luchi Gonzalez said in a statement. “While we’re disappointed, the health and safety of our traveling delegation as well as our league partners is our highest priority.”
FC Dallas announced last week that six players had tested positive upon arrival in Florida for the tournament, and the entire team was quarantined. As a result, the team’s opening match on Thursday against the Vancouver Whitecaps was postponed.
With Dallas' withdrawal, Major League Soccer was devising a new schedule for the monthlong tournament, to be played without fans at ESPN's Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World. The tournament is still set to open Wednesday with a nationally televised match between Orlando City and expansion Inter Miami.
Also on Monday, LAFC forward Carlos Vela opted out of the tournament out of concerns for his wife, who is expecting their second child. “I always want to give everything I have to my club, our fans and supporters and the city of L.A.,” Vela said in a statement. “However, it is in the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy."
MLS shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 after teams had each played two games. Garber vowed to stop the tournament if warranted. “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," Garber said. "That is something I committed to the players and to our entire league early on. But this is proving that our protocols worked and our plan so far has been sound.”
FC Dallas previously revealed that all players and staff tested negative for the coronavirus before leaving for the tournament on June 27. Upon arrival, two players tested positive. Subsequent tests found four more players infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.
“We absolutely agree with the league’s decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament out of safety concerns for our players and staff,” FC Dallas President Dan Hunt said. “We’re looking forward to resuming the 2020 season once the entire club is healthy and in position to play competitive matches at the highest level.”
The league said no other team was in contact with the FC Dallas delegation. League protocol requires players and staff to be tested every two days upon arrival in Florida.
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