Early pandemic memories still fresh for Fire

The first months after the spread of COVID-19 were challenging and highlighted the value of perspective.

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Fire coach Raphael Wicky’s job was complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Courtesy of the Fire

On March 7, 2020, the Fire tied the Revolution 1-1 at Gillette Stadium. Jonathan Bornstein’s 70th-minute goal gave the Fire their first point of the season and some momentum heading into the March 14 match at Orlando City.

That game was never played.

On March 12, MLS suspended its season for 30 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Fire didn’t play until the MLS is Back Tournament in July before the league returned to home markets in August.

A year later, Fire coach Raphael Wicky has a clear recollection of March 2020.

“We thought, ‘OK, the game in Orlando is postponed and we’re going to come back on Monday for training and then things are going to go and we are going to keep playing,’ ” Wicky said. “That was what we thought in the beginning when we got the message we had to stop training. I think at that time a year ago, no one really expected it to become a three-month break where you’re actually at home and can’t go and train. So that was obviously a big issue.”

Soccer wasn’t the only issue.

The Fire still were getting new players acclimated to the city and country. They had to do that during the pandemic. And that’s not to say things were easy for the players already settled.

Wicky recognized that then and recognizes that now.

“Look, this was a very difficult year for everyone, not only for us in the sport, and I think at one point, you had to say, ‘OK, right now, I’m not a coach anymore,’” Wicky said. “I have to see how is my family doing; how are my players doing not on the field because they were here, alone without families, some of the guys just moved here. So I think it was important to get the human connection with the players and first to look after the human and then after the athlete, actually.”

Looking back, Fire captain Francisco Calvo kept things in perspective and felt fortunate about his place in life. The circumstances weren’t optimal for him, but he knows others had it much worse than a soccer player training in his apartment.

“If I said that I had a bad time I would be lying, because I have the privilege to live well,” Calvo said. “Other [people] have bad situations in their lives, losing their jobs.”

In mid-June, the Fire returned to full team training. Bornstein recalled the team’s virtual workouts and yoga sessions, and how that kept the team together even as it was apart.

He also has another memory from that period involving his two young daughters.

“The thing I’ll remember most to be honest is the time I got to spend with my family in those months after March,” Bornstein said. “It really brought us together as a tight-knit group. We were making videos for the team, and my daughters were just doing crazy stuff. It was amazing to see them blossom within just a few months.”

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