TUKWILA — The Sounders have postponed their March 21 match against FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field in compliance with a mandate from Gov. Jay Inslee to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, in the Seattle area.
Inslee made the announcement Wednesday morning, ordering a halt of all gatherings of more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties at least through the end of March. Due to a FIFA international break and two road games, the Sounders aren’t slated to play at CenturyLink again until April 18.
“We are going to be, as much as humanly possible, in lock-step with the health authorities and what they recommend as the guiding principle,” said Garth Lagerwey, Sounders general manager and president of soccer. “(The ban) is an initial period of 30 days. Right now, the most important thing is to be calm here. We are taking measures out of an abundance of caution and we are trying to keep everybody as absolutely safe as we can. We want to flatten the curve of the spread of this disease.”
The Sounders also announced the Tacoma Defiance, their second-tier USL Championship team, will play its league opener Wednesday against San Diego behind closed doors at Cheney Stadium, mainly because San Diego (which won 2-1) arrived in Seattle earlier this week. The Defiance’s match March 22 at Cheney Stadium is postponed.
The Sounders do plan to travel Thursday via a charter flight to Houston for a Major League Soccer road match against the Dynamo at BBVA Stadium on Saturday. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner put his city under a seven-day, emergency health declaration on Wednesday to control the spread of the coronavirus there but hasn’t mandated the cancellation of large events that aren’t operated by the city.
Lagerwey said discussions with MLS and health officials are ongoing and chartering a flight with only essential personnel allows for flexibility in addition to safety.
The club has already made internal changes to protect against the virus, such as not sharing towels and water bottles, sanitizing the weigh- room equipment, washing hands more and staying home if sick. Lagerwey said no one within the organization is ill or needed testing for the virus.
“Obviously it’s big news,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We’ve got to start planning for a different scenario after Houston. But now, that really means that the Houston game is important because we need to collect points. We don’t know how the season is going to shake out, so we’re going to try to focus just on that and then let the government, the doctors, all of the people make those other decisions and we’ll figure out a plan after we get more information.”
Tickets purchased to the FC Dallas match at CenturyLink will be honored once the match is rescheduled.
Lagerwey said that could be during the FIFA breaks this summer, but the Sounders’ schedule was already stacked beginning in May to clear room this month and in April for a possible run in the CONCACAF Champions League.
The club has four matches in April — including a rescheduled game at New England — and seven matches planned for May. The Sounders have three games in June.
“It’s not doomsday,” Sounders co-captain Stefan Frei said of the match postponement and changes around the team. “I believe in the local people that are in charge of making sure the ones that do have symptoms are taken care of and the precautions that our governor has issued. Those are all good steps and they make me confident in the people that are in charge of those things.
“Let’s be vigilant. Let’s do everything we can on an individual basis. But let’s also trust the ones that are in charge.”