Coach Raphael Wicky and the Fire deserve credit for how they handled COVID-19 during the 2020 season. While nearly 20% of MLS players contracted the coronavirus, the Fire only had one positive.
Though there was certainly an element of luck involved in their general success avoiding COVID-19, Wicky praised his players and the franchise in general for how they approached the pandemic.
“Everyone did a really good job in the whole organization,” Wicky said. “We took things very seriously. I’m not saying others didn’t take it seriously — it’s such a tricky virus where you can get it anywhere on any day — so I just think we did a really good job in following all the protocol and I think the guys were very very disciplined in their private lives.”
But Wicky and the Fire know they’ll have to be vigilant again in 2021.
Though vaccines have become available since the 2020 MLS season ended, the pandemic doesn’t look to be ending just yet. Safety measures will continue to be in place, and that means the Fire and the rest of MLS must continue following rules to keep everybody as healthy as possible.
“It will be a challenge again as long as the vaccine’s not there for everyone,” Wicky said. “I think it will be a tricky situation again this season because it’s not easy. Even if you’re tired [of] coronavirus you have to stay committed, you have to stay disciplined. It’s going to be a tricky situation for everyone.”
Wicky’s message last season about the pandemic was consistent and forceful. He stressed the importance of caution and staying aware of surroundings. When other teams had major issues with the coronavirus, Wicky used that as a reminder to his group to heed warnings about the pandemic.
That will continue this season, though success in 2020 is no guarantee of success in 2021.
“What happened last year doesn’t mean that this year is going to be the same,” Wicky said. “You see it in Europe now and all these competitions. I follow all these competitions in other countries and you see new players tested positive every day. Me as a coach, me and my staff as a team, we will have to be very flexible and just ready to deal with whatever comes because you come in the morning to train and you can always get a message that the medical department comes and says ‘Sorry, but this player tested positive.’ That can happen any day as well this year.”
If that happens, the Fire will have to follow all protocols and be ready to handle what comes their way.
“We just have to deal with that,” Wicky said. “I also think we’re more prepared on how to deal with that mentally as well because we have lived with it for about 10 months and we had a season with it. It will still be tricky and we have to follow protocol and be very disciplined.”