All 26 teams around MLS will meet in Orlando for a restart tournament, with all teams playing three games and top finishers advancing to a 16-team knockout stage. LAFC come in as a favorite to win the whole thing, but obviously several months’ rest and no indication of injury or players who may not be participating at this stage means it’s an open field coming in to the unprecedented competition.
LAFC players are happy to be back in training. Goalkeeper Pablo Sisniega noted in an interview in training that he’s happy to have the everyday routine starting up again. Midfielder Bryce Duke agreed.
“Being back is definitely better than staying at the apartment and being indoors all the time,” Duke said. “Right now we’re not all playing regularly, but seeing the teammates, being able to pass to each other, it just brings back the old feeling and we’re getting one step closer to what we want to do.”
“I really missed this,” Sisniega said. “I was hoping to get back to this as soon as possible so I’m just very happy to be back with the group.”
Given the uncertain time we live in, there are concerns about the safety of the players even with strict quarantine rules and regular testing on tap for the Orlando tournament. Defender Jordan Harvey said the specifics are still a work-in-progress, even for players.
“The medical safety plan in Orlando moving forward is still getting worked out,” he explained. “They’re doing their due diligence as well as our players association in trying to iron out the details so that everyone feels comfortable. I trust they will do that, given the hard work from the PA and the league. That is a work in progress and hopefully at the end of the day everybody’s safe and we’re able to compete in the right way.”
With the restart tournament taking place on the other side of the country and with no fans allowed to attend, LAFC fans certainly have mixed opinions about the plan. The players each had messages to the supporters about the resumption of the league in unusual circumstances.
“No matter where we are, no matter if we have fans or not, we always need you guys’ support,” Duke said. “I know you guys will be watching on TV and all that stuff, but it goes a long way if you guys are cheering for us on the other side of the screens. We know you guys are cheering for us, we know you guys support us, so that just goes a long way in our mindsets.”
Sisniega called fans’ support, even from afar, a “huge inspiration.”
“We know we have the best fans in the league so I know they’re going to be supporting us, even if they can’t come to the stadium and they can’t come to the games. Just know that for us, how you watch us and support us, even if it’s going to be from home, is going to be a huge inspiration to us, and it’s going to feel just as inspiring having you guys in the stadium,” he said.
Harvey was more circumspect about the oddity of leaving supporters behind and not having the fantastic atmosphere we’re all gotten used to at The Banc.
“On this trip to Orlando, when we are going to start back up again, it’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be strange, but my message to the fans is we’re thinking about you guys, we cannot wait — whenever that day is — for that day to come, and for you guys to be back in the stands, rooting us on because we know what an advantage that is. We’ll be missing that obviously, and we’ll be trying our best to compete. Hopefully you guys are proud of us at the end of the day,” Harvey said.
Midfielder Mark-Anthony Kaye has spoken up and marched for bigger issues, like racial equality, than seeing the return of soccer, in recent days. But even as he returns to work, the spirit of unity is something he seeks, although LAFC will be apart from supporters.
“My message to the supporters and fans would just be we’re all in this together and we know you guys are going to have to watch from home at the beginning. But we still have you guys in our hearts and minds and we’ll never forget what you guys have been able to do up to this point and we keep looking forward to when you can come back into our stadium. Stick with us and we’re still with you guys.”
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