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The Sports Report: MLS is back.... wait, not so fast

Jonathan dos Santos
Jonathan dos Santos
(Katharine Lotze / Getty Images)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell and we turn our attention to the mounting COVID-19 numbers and what it might mean for sports.

We start with Kevin Baxter and the MLS Is Back tournament, which may be in jeopardy.

FC Dallas has seen six players test positive for the unique coronavirus since the team arrived in Orlando, Fla., leaving the team’s participation in the MLS Is Back tournament in doubt and raising questions over whether the competition should go forward at all.

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“The tournament is on thin ice,” said Zachary Binney, an epidemiologist at Oxford College of Emory University. “It all depends on what we see in terms of positive tests over the next week or so.”

The competition, the first for MLS teams since March 8, is scheduled to start next Wednesday. FC Dallas plays its first game on Thursday.

MLS said two of the Dallas players tested positive Saturday upon arrival at Disney’s Swan and Dolphin resort, where all 26 teams will be housed under quarantine during the five-week tournament. The other four tested positive within the last two days. All six participated in a clinical assessment by a healthcare provider and were moved to the isolation area of the hotel where they are being monitoring and undergoing follow-up testing.

Three FC Dallas players had previously tested positive for coronavirus prior to the team leaving for Florida.

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FC Dallas canceled its training sessions until at least Friday and its players are quarantining in their hotel rooms pending the results of additional COVID-19 testing. When members of the delegation pass “multiple tests,” they will be cleared to return to training.

Eight teams are already in Orlando but at least three others – Vancouver, Nashville and the New York Red Bulls – pushed back scheduled charter flights that were scheduled to arrive Wednesday. The Galaxy and LAFC are the last two teams to arrive, with both scheduled to arrive late Monday. Before leaving for Florida, players and team staff are tested twice for the virus and are tested again upon arrival. While in the protective bubble at the sprawling Disney resort, the 1,300 people in the MLS group must wear facial coverings outside their rooms and practice social distancing.

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MORE SOCCER

The Galaxy will be without midfielder Jonathan dos Santos for the MLS Is Back tournament after the team announced Wednesday its captain would undergo minimally invasive hernia surgery Thursday at the Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Santa Monica. He is expected to be out for six weeks.

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Dos Santos missed all but 45 minutes of the Galaxy’s first two games with a groin injury and has played less than 75% of the team’s minutes over the last three seasons.

CLIPPERS

Helene Elliott talks to Clippers coach Doc Rivers on the return of the sport:

With about a week to go before teams are due to report to Orlando for training camp, Clippers coach Doc Rivers acknowledged he’s concerned about the health of everyone involved — and the rest of us.

“I’m hoping, quite honestly, and it’s just a hope, that when we get to the bubble it becomes the safest place in America,” Rivers said during a conference call Wednesday. “But we don’t know any of this, and yeah, this pandemic, it seems like obviously — I guess this is the only political statement I’ll make on it. It would be great if we had national leadership, which we have zero on this, and so, unfortunately, everyone is left to do their own thing from state to state and in some places from city to city. It’s absurd.

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“But what we’re going to try to do once we get to Disney is protect each other, protect the area. But we have to get there. You know, you’re almost nervous about that.”

Rivers compared the mind-set required to navigate these anxious times to carrying out a Navy SEALs mission. Resolve, he said, will count as much as skill.

“I was talking to the commissioner last week,” Rivers said, “and he said the team that wins this will deserve a gold star, not an asterisk. If you think about the mental toughness it’s going to take, whoever comes out of this, it’s going to come down to that.

“It’s going to come down to teams trying to get back together and play together. But there’s going to be so many things that are thrown at us that we don’t even know yet, that it’s really going to be a mental toughness challenge.”

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NFL

The NFL is expected to cut this year’s preseason games from four to two per team, eliminating games scheduled for Weeks 1 and 4. This comes in the wake of the NFL cancelling the annual Hall of Fame Game, which typically opens the preseason.

The move is expected to be formally announced in the coming days, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. The NFL declined to confirm the pending decision.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the games scheduled for Weeks 2 and 3 of the preseason will be the matchups played. Under the plan, each team will get a home and away game. The Week 2 matchups likely will remain as is, with Week 3 schedule being reshuffled. The first week of games should be held between Aug. 20-24 and the second between Aug. 27-31.

This would mean the Rams would open SoFi Stadium on Aug. 22 as the visiting team against the Chargers, a game scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m.

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All of this could change as health and safety issues continue to unfold, but the NFL has not changed the date when the bulk of players will arrive at training camp (July 28), or the Sept. 10 start date of the regular season.

BORN ON THIS DAY

1904: Tennis player René Lacoste (d. 1996)

1937: Race car driver Richard Petty

1953: Former Angel Tony Armas

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1964: Baseball player Jose Canseco

1975: Hockey player Éric Dazé

1979: Hockey player Joe Thornton

1984: Figure skater Johnny Weir

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1989: Soccer player Alex Morgan

DIED ON THIS DAY

1964: Race car driver Glenn “Fireball” Roberts, 35

1973: Race car driver Swede Savage, 26

1994: Soccer player Andrés Escobar, 27

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AND FINALLY

A ball bounces off Jose Canseco‘s head for a home run. Watch it here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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