ATLANTA — With public-gathering restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic getting lifted in various parts of the United States, four Major League Soccer teams returned to training on Wednesday, May 7.
Atlanta United, Orlando City SC, Inter Miami and Sporting Kansas City restarted workouts on Wednesday, the first day MLS permitted teams to do so.
SKC coach Peter Vermes is optimistic that his team's return will help serve as a template for other teams to follow.
"I think this is going to be a huge help to the other markets that maybe have a little bit more restrictions and maybe their government officials aren't very confident about it," Vermes said. "I just think, hopefully, this demonstrated performance will help move those different markets along in a meaningful way. I feel good about that aspect, and whatever we can do to help the league continue to move forward is our main objective."
Atlanta United midfielder Pity Martinez said through an interpreter, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Very happy (to be back). They've taken very good measures at the club to take care of us and the staff also. As long as we're being careful it's perfect because we have families and we have to protect them. It's a good start for everything that we're going through, which is very difficult."
According to the Journal-Constitution, at least 10 Atlanta United players were present for the voluntary sessions, three of them players who were injured before the league shut down due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The team's next training sessions are scheduled for Friday.
MLS rules stipulate that no more than eight players may train at once, and they may work out only on outdoor fields. Players were limited to working in specific parts of the field. Reporters were not allowed to be present.
"It's good to see teammates," Atlanta United defender George Campbell said in a team-released statement. "We can't get too close to them. It's refreshing to be back. We are hungry to be back. We have to take baby steps. We need to be cautious and have safety as our No. 1 goal. It feels good to be back."
Orlando City players wore facemasks whenever they were near teammates and team staffers, according to ProSoccerUSA.com.
"Today was a great experience," Orlando City captain Nani said, per ProSoccerUSA.com. "We are happy and very pleased to be back in our training ground and be able to train, even if it's individual training with some distance between the players. It was fun and it's always nice to feel free again and touch the ball."
Inter Miami defender AJ DeLaGarza tweeted, "A little taste of normalcy today with individual trainings starting back up. Keep doing your part so we can all get back to doing what we love...watching soccer"
The Houston Dynamo are due to begin training Thursday, and FC Dallas hopes to do so soon, too.
Dallas coach Luci Gonzalez told reporters on a conference call, according to MLS' website, "It's not all set and done — I can't give you an exact date — but I'm hopeful we can start this next week. We're taking steps in the right direction. ...
"Clubs are starting today — that was a possibility for us — but we wanted to get feedback and learn from how some experiences go this week to make the best decisions we can when it's right for us. We're confident that the players are still being very productive even though we're not together yet. We can be patient and do it at the right time."
Sporting KC president and CEO Jake Reid hopes MLS will be the first major U.S. sports league to resume action.
"I probably wouldn't say it's a temptation, I'd say it's something that we're driving for," Reid said, according to the Kansas City Star. "To be the first one back in an area where outside of 'The Last Dance' every week you don't really have a lot of sports content to look forward to, that's something that we would be extremely interested in — being the first ones back, if we can pull that out — but it comes down to the safety protocol."