When Galaxy President Chris Klein picked up the phone Friday morning it had been a little more than 24 hours since he learned the MLS season would be suspended because of the spread of the coronavirus. The news that his players couldn’t practice together until at least Monday was even fresher.
That left Klein struggling to process it all.
“These are times that none of us have lived through,” he said. “We’re dealing with this on the fly. And it changes minute by minute, by the hour, by the day.”
One of the biggest takeaways for Klein, a former national team midfielder and MLS Cup winner who has spent his whole life in soccer, is that the game was no longer anyone’s primary concern.
“The prevailing thought is we need to do what’s best for the health and safety of our players and our fans and our people,” he said. “We’re using that as a guide.”
The 30-day suspension will affect at least 38 MLS games, including three Galaxy matches and two for LAFC, which also saw its two-leg CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series with Mexico’s Cruz Azul postponed. When the season resumes, those games will have to be squeezed into an already crowded schedule that potentially could see some teams repeatedly playing as many as three times a week.
The 16-team Leagues Cup with Mexico, scheduled to begin in July, could be scrapped or shortened to ease the crunch. The U.S. Open Cup, the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the U.S., already has been suspended and could be shortened or abandoned as well.
The Galaxy is scheduled to play in both tournaments.
Klein said by stopping play just two weeks into the league season, the MLS should be able to play a full 34-game schedule if there are no further delays. The three-day moratorium on team practices was adopted to give teams time to review training protocols and ensure a safe environment for players and staff. It applies to first-team players, reserve teams such as Galaxy II and academies, although players are permitted to use team facilities for individual workouts.
Though Galaxy coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto and general manager Dennis te Kloese already have begun preparing for what comes next, that planning involves a lot of guesswork.
“Guillermo and Dennis are thinking through scenarios to try to prepare the team,” Klein said. “We know we won’t have a game for more than 29 days. But we also know how quickly that can all change.
“Right now priority No. 1 is looking out for the health and safety of our players and coaches and people.”
The Galaxy have 10 foreign-born players on their roster but given the uncertainty with the coronavirus, Klein said they will not be allowed to travel home.
When a sense of normality returns, Klein said he expects the Galaxy will scrutinize their roster because depth will become even more important given the accelerated schedule.
“We know that we’re going to need a full roster,” he said. “You have to look and build those players and it does change your thinking a bit.”
The team also will have to examine the best way to handle what essentially will become a second preseason training camp with four weeks of practice but no games.
With Galaxy II also sidelined, scrimmages between the MLS team and the USL Championship team could be scheduled.
The Galaxy and LAFC said tickets for postponed home games will be honored on the dates for which those games are rescheduled. For the Galaxy, games affected are March 22 vs. Orlando City and April 4 with Sporting Kansas City. LAFC postponed Thursday’s Champions League quarterfinal with Mexico’s Cruz Azul and a March 22 date with the Portland Timbers.
Klein is keeping his fingers crossed no more games need to be postponed.
“There is a much bigger issue going on in the world, which is most important,” he said. “But people need a release and like to talk about sports. So yeah, we are certainly looking at ways that we can do that.”