D.C. United’s first match of the MLS restart against Toronto FC Sunday morning was postponed because a player from each side might have the coronavirus.
Major League Soccer Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott told reporters a D.C. United player tested positive for COVID-19 and a Toronto player’s test came back “inconclusive.”
The players in question have been removed from the rest of their teams and put into isolation, according to ESPN’s telecast.
The match was rescheduled for Monday at 9 a.m., which marks the second time that United-Toronto is being pushed back. It was originally scheduled for Friday, but it was moved to Sunday because Toronto arrived late to the league’s “bubble” in Orlando, Florida, because of testing delays.
“Because of the arrival time of the clubs in Orlando, the league’s protocol called for retesting both teams this morning and to await the results of those tests prior to playing the match,” MLS said in a statement. “Major League Soccer will continue to prioritize the health and safety of all participants … in making these decisions.”
The announcement came mere minutes before the match was supposed to kick off. Reporters in the bubble said that D.C. United had arrived at the stadium, while Toronto did not travel from the hotel to the stadium.
Abbott said that league officials “view this as the process working” — the results were released in time and the game was called off to avoid potential spread of the virus.
“We believe the tournament can still be conducted safely,” Abbott said Sunday. “And if at the point we determine it can’t, obviously we would make a decision then.”
But it’s the latest setback in the soccer league’s attempt to return from a four-month pause in action brought on by the pandemic. FC Dallas and Nashville SC were forced to withdraw from the event after each experienced a rash of positive cases. FC Dallas had 10 players and one coach test positive for COVID-19, while nine players on Nashville tested positive.
MLS is also drawing criticism for its coronavirus testing arrangement, in which a laboratory called BioReference is turning around players’ test results in 12 to 24 hours — while testing is getting delayed elsewhere in Florida, which has become a hotspot for the pandemic.
“We understand our role in being members of the community and so we have been in discussions with BioReference,” Abbott said. “It’s our view we are not impacting the ability of the public to get tests the various times that they need, but that’s something we would continue to evaluate with them.”
D.C. United’s next match against the New England Revolution was pushed back from Thursday to Friday at 8 p.m. to accommodate the first match’s delay.