As the Fire and the rest of Major League Soccer prepare to resume the 2020 season in a tightly quarantined tournament at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Florida is increasing.
On Tuesday, Fire coach Raphael Wicky said that situation hasn’t come up in discussions with the players. Wicky did say the team trusts the league to keep everybody safe.
“Should the league think that, OK, this is going to be unsafe, then we trust them that they will react to that,” Wicky said. “It’s out of our hands. We’re going to the tournament. There’s a big [amount of] trust from us toward the league that they will do the best, a good thing, and we’ll all be safe. Should that not be the case, I’m sure there will be a reaction from the league’s side.”
Slated to begin July 8, teams can begin arriving in Orlando for the MLS is Back Tournament on June 24. But with those dates looming, concerns about the coronavirus aren’t going away, and Florida appears to be on the wrong track.
Regardless, Wicky has a job to do, and as of Monday, that meant running full-team practices at SeatGeek Stadium.
“Everyone is happy to interact with each other again, to actually fight and compete in training again,” Wicky said. “The first two days were actually going well. As a coach, I was happy with what I saw.”
The Fire returned to full-team training for the first time since the league’s March shutdown. After the stoppage, players were given fitness plans, and they were recently allowed to return to individual, then small-group training sessions, but none of those exercises can compare with the type of practices the Fire can hold now.
And the players have had to adjust.
“It’s completely different than what they have done for the last three months; that’s just a fact,” Wicky said. “It’s different physically. You can run as much as you want. You can dribble as much as you want in a rectangle and a square. You can have small-group training with patterns, passing drills but no opposition. Now going back into action in full-team training, the players say it feels completely different.”
When the Fire last convened as a full group, they had played two games and only recently completed training camp. Now they’re going through what could be called a second camp, preparing to resume a season that had barely begun.
“It will take awhile to get used to it, but [from] what I saw, it was actually good,” Wicky said. “The mentality and the excitement are very high. I’m very happy about that.”