So what’s life like in the Orlando bubble?
The odd-timed training sessions, the limited freedoms, the inescapable heat and humidity of summertime Florida.
How would an MLS player describe it?
Well, Wednesday, Sounders midfielder Cristian Roldan put it as succinctly as possible.
“It’s tolerable,” he said.
Hey, that’s probably the best you can hope for under these circumstances.
The Sounders will play a competitive match for the first time in months when they meet San Jose on Friday. In the MLS is Back tourney, the defending league champs will finally get a chance to showcase the talents that earned them their second title in four years.
The tourney is a chance for MLS to snare new fans, as the NBA, NHL and MLB are yet to resume their seasons. More than that, though, it will allow players to rediscover that elusive sense of normalcy.
“When we’re able to play footie in front of fans it’s going to be pretty special,” Roldan said. “I think being back on the field for the first time in a long time this upcoming Friday will mean a lot to us as players because this is something that we do on a daily basis.”
Roldan said he was living a quarantine-style life before he got to Orlando, as most of his free time was spent playing video games or watching television. He said he has less freedom in Orlando, but that this was “for good reason.”
In the past, if Crisitian stumbled upon a friend or a player from another team, he would take some time to chitchat. Now, it’s just a quick hello and the parties go their separate ways.
Caution is Priority 1 at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin Resort southwest of Orlando. If a player or coach leaves the quarantined area, they have to take a test before returning to the facility.
If a player leaves his room to grab a cup of coffee or eat with his teammates, he can’t go to the training room before washing his hands in his own room. Obviously, the health of each individual is of great concern, but we’re also talking about the health of the league here.
FC Dallas, which was supposed to be the Sounders’ second opponent in this tournament, has forfeited after 10 players tested positive for COVID-19. The game between Nashville SC and the Chicago Fire FC was delayed after five Nashville players tested positive, and another four Nashville players tested positive Wednesday.
MLS is doing everything in its power to try and keep personnel safe, but nothing is risk-free. Roldan understands that — he just wants to make sure the risk is minimized.
“We’re trusting our teammates, we’re trusting ourselves to do the right thing. Sometimes you might ask a lot from players, but I don’t think this is much in terms of following the protocols, doing your part, wearing a mask,” he said. “And that goes for the safety of the general public. Wear a mask, do your part, and don’t risk someone’s life just because you’re not wearing a mask.”
Another thing that’s been different about the Orlando experience has been the training times. The Sounders will practice at 10:30 a.m. and again at 9 p.m. This isn’t something players are used to, but that’s true of most things right now. When’s the last time you heard of an entire team missing a tournament because of a virus?
This was mentioned to Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer in regards to the validity of the tournament. FC Dallas is out. LAFC star and reigning league MVP Carlos Vela has opted out not to play due to his wife’s pregnancy.
Would this take away from the prestige of a tournament title?
Schmetzer isn’t buying that.
“Look, Carlos Vela could be injured instead of having a baby. … There are certainly are athletes in other sports that have chosen, because baseball players that make a lot more money or other athletes that have saved enough money to make the choice (not to play), I believe that all the soccer players want to play, so I’m not sure that I agree with any sort of loss in validity of the tournament,” Schmetzer said. “Sure, there are some things that we don’t like. Sure, things aren’t quite normal. But each one of us are going to prepare our teams to the best of our ability to try to win this tournament.”
No, things aren’t anywhere close to normal right now. But the Sounders coming back is one step toward getting back there.