MLS postpones Fire’s tournament opener

Five players with Nashville SC, the Fire’s scheduled opponent, tested positive for COVID-19.

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Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber speaks during a press conference to announce the Chicago Fire will be returning to Soldier Field beginning with the 2020 season, Tuesday morning, Oct. 8, 2019.

MLS commissioner Don Garber speaks during a news conference last year in Chicago.

Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

The MLS is Back Tournament is off to a rocky start. And now it’s affecting the Fire.

On Tuesday, MLS postponed the Fire’s tournament opener Wednesday night against Nashville SC. The Fire instead will play a closed-door scrimmage at 9:30 a.m. against Minnesota United. 

Nashville SC, a first-year franchise, has had five players test positive for the coronavirus since the team’s arrival July 3 in Orlando, Florida. 

MLS did not announce when the match will be played, and it’s unclear if Nashville SC will remain in the tournament. 

“In conjunction with the club, MLS will continue to evaluate Nashville SC’s participation in the MLS is Back Tournament following the results of additional testing,” the league said in a news release.

The Fire, who haven’t had any positive cases, still are scheduled to face Inter Miami on Tuesday morning, and then New York City FC on July 19. 

As for Nashville, two of the players were confirmed positive over the weekend and three received confirmed positive results Monday night. In addition, four other players received inconclusive results and need to be tested further. The team has not trained since Tuesday, and its departure for Orlando — originally scheduled for last Wednesday — was held up until Friday.

The postponement of the Fire and Nashville SC follows the withdrawal of FC Dallas from the tournament on Monday after 10 players and one staff member tested positive. 

The league has not said how it will reconfigure the tournament after FC Dallas’ exit.

“Given the impact of the number of positive tests on the club’s ability to train and play competitive matches, we have made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament,” MLS commissioner Don Garber said in a statement Monday. “The health of everyone involved in our return to play has always been our top priority, and we will continue to make decisions consistent with that priority.”

The safety of players and everyone involved has been a pressing topic leading up to the tournament. The differing reactions from jurisdictions around the league and the surge in cases outside the MLS bubble in Florida are a cause for concern about the feasibility of the made-for-TV event.

Last week, Fire coach Raphael Wicky was asked about those issues before the team traveled to Florida.

“We trust [the league] that they will make the right decision,” Wicky said. “If they feel that the players and the staff and everyone is some sort of danger, we trust them that they will make adjustments or other decisions.”

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