Coronavirus, Sports

Atlanta United Poised To Start Tournament, Despite Coronavirus Concerns

“It’s not extra stress, but we realize that we all have to take care of each other for the health and safety of everyone,” said Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco, shown last year.
“It’s not extra stress, but we realize that we all have to take care of each other for the health and safety of everyone,” said Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco, shown last year.
Credit John Bazemore / Associated PRess file
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Atlanta United is set to play its first match in more than three months on Saturday night in Orlando.

Major League Soccer is using the tournament to restart its season amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the idea was to isolate the teams in hotels in one city in hopes of keeping players healthy.

But one team, FC Dallas, already had to back out of the tournament when multiple players tested positive for COVID-19.

Atlanta defender Brooks Lennon says despite this setback, he feels confident going into Saturday’s game.

“The No. 1 goal, why we came down here, was to win every single game,” said Lennon on Wednesday. “So, if the testing continues, I don’t see why we should be worried.”

He said the team is focused on preparing for matches but also well aware of the uncertainty of holding a tournament in the midst of a pandemic.

“There’s been obviously a lot of hiccups since teams started to arrive in ‘the bubble,’ and it’s definitely difficult, challenging times, but we’re hoping that it stays until the end,” said Lennon.

The tournament is scheduled to last until Aug. 11. Lennon says he expects the match against New York to be a physical one, despite concerns of virus transmission.

Midfielder Ezequiel Barco says the team will have to adapt to playing with no fans in the stands. But he says they’ll just be focused on winning and staying coronavirus-free.

“It’s not extra stress, but we realize that we all have to take care of each other for the health and safety of everyone,” Barco said through an English interpreter. “Because there’s multiple teams in each hotel, and you do cross each other in the hotel. So, it’s just important, and we know it is, to try and follow all the MLS protocols so that we can have a successful and safe tournament.”

Game time is 8 p.m. Saturday.

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