SOCCER RETURNS FROM COVID-19 BREAK

Bundesliga resumes May 16; Dynamo, Dash back at training

Midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia, the club's longest-tenured current player, reports to training at Houston Sports Park on Thursday, May 7, 2020. Photo: Houston Dynamo

Soccer leagues around the world begin life after a temporary suspension due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The German Bundesliga, one of Europe's big five leagues, prepares to return to action this coming weekend.

In the United States, professional soccer teams have been given the green light to return to their training grounds - with certain restrictions.

Return of the Bundesliga

The "powers that be" in Germany met last Wednesday and the green light was given for the first and second divisions to resume their 2019/20 season. The previous Bundesliga matchday took place on March 8 but clubs resumed training a month later, awaiting a decision on when play would resume.

Bayern Munich leads the tight race for the Bundesliga title. The top four clubs clinch a UEFA Champions League berth.

Upcoming TV Schedule (All times CT):

Saturday, May 16

  • 8:30 a.m. - Borussia Dortmund vs. Schalke 04 (FS1, FOX Deportes)
  • 8:30 a.m. - RB Leipzig vs. Freiburg (FS2, TUDN)
  • 11:30 a.m. - Frankfurt vs. Monchengladbach (FS1, TUDN)

Sunday, May 17

  • 8:30 a.m. - Cologne vs. Mainz (FS1, FOX Deportes)
  • 11:00 a.m. - Union Berlin vs. Bayern Munich (FS1, UniMas, TUDN)

Monday, May 18

  • 1:30 p.m. - Werder Bremen vs. Bayer Leverkusen (FS2)

Complete listings at WorldSoccerTalk.com

Spanish La Liga, Italian Serie A clubs return to training

Lionel Messi and FC Barcelona returned to their training ground for individual workouts as Spain begins to ease restrictions. Sevilla, Villarreal, Osasuna and Leganes also resumed training and more are on the way including Real Madrid on Monday.

Five players in Spain have tested positive for the Coronavirus and are under quarantine. La Liga continues to see June 12 as a potential return date.

Clubs in Italy, one of the hardest countries hit by the Coronavirus, have returned to training including Fiorentina who have six players that have tested positive for COVID-19. The Italian FA have maintained their desire to resume the season.

Houston Dynamo and MLS clubs report for individual drills


Photo: Houston Dynamo

Forward Mauro Manotas (pictured) and other MLS players around the country were able to report to their club's training grounds for the first time in almost two months beginning last Wednesday. The Dynamo began their individual workouts, the only training permitted at the moment, on Thursday.

"Mentally, being again on a soccer field, where you go out to touch the ball, where the field is prepared for that, not being in a park where someone is throwing a Frisbee on the side, it is another world," said Head Coach Tab Ramos. "Being able to enter a real soccer field where everything was ready, I think the players were happy and well, I think mentally it's a giant step."

MLS policy on indivudial player workouts

  • Workouts will be voluntary for players
  • Any workouts must adhere to local public health or government policies
  • MLS moratorium on small group and full team training remains in place through Friday, May 15
  • Prior to initiating any individual player workouts, every team must submit to MLS a club-specific plan
  • Training facility restricted to essential staff, with specific staff listed in the plan.
  • Sanitization and disinfection plans in place for all training equipment and spaces, including disinfection of any equipment used by players (balls, cones, goals) between every session.
  • Standard Screening Assessment completed by each player prior to every arrival at the training site, including temperature checks
  • Staggered player and staff arrivals and departures, with designated parking spaces to maintain maximum distance between vehicles.
  • Player use of personal protective equipment from the parking lot to the field, and again on return to the parking lot.
  • Staff use of the appropriate personal protective equipment throughout training while also maintaining a minimum distance of 10 feet from players at all times.
  • Hand washing and disinfectant stations for required use before and after individual workouts.
  • Clubs will have the use of the outdoor fields at their training facility, divided into a maximum of four quadrants per field. A maximum of one player per quadrant may participate per training session with no equipment sharing or playing (passing, shooting) between players.
  • An Emergency Action Plan for all COVID-19 related issues.
  • Access to club facilities is prohibited, including locker rooms, team gyms, and team training rooms.
  • Team gyms and training rooms may still only be accessed by players receiving post-operative and rehabilitation treatment (in HOU case: Jose Bizama, Aljaz "Kiki" Struna)
Only three players (Sam Junqua, Cody Cropper and Niko Hansen) are the only players not training at Houston Sports Park while they serve a five-day quarantine after club-permitted out of town trips.

Houston Dash and NWSL back at training with small groups permitted


Photo: Houston Dash

Midfielder Christine Nairn (pictured) and other NWSL players were able to return to their club's training grounds for the first time in almost two months last Wednesday.

"We have been chomping at the bit to get back," said Nairn. "Some of the measures we had to take today began with us arriving in 10-minute increments. We had a time that we had to be here, that gave us enough time to check in, check our temperature and get to the field. We also had to wear (masks) to the field and off the field, so the Dash and Dynamo organization are doing everything they can to get us back on the field as safely and quickly as possible."

NWSL policy on indivudial player workouts

  • Voluntary, individual player workouts on outdoor fields
  • Access prohibited to club facilities including locker rooms, weight rooms, and indoor team training rooms.
  • Training center (incl. locker rooms, etc.) only accessible to players receiving medical treatments that can't be performed at home.
  • All activity must follow government, state, and local mandates
  • Each team must have approval from their medical staff to advance to the next phase
  • Teams should limit staff to the essential personnel necessary to conduct each phase of training and competition
  • Players will undergo a daily symptom screening prior to entering team facilities
  • Players who are fulfilling self-quarantine for any reason are not permitted to train with other individuals or at team facilities
  • Players, coaches and staff who are sick or have close contact with individuals who are sick must inform the team's Certified Athletic Trainer, stay home, and not participate in training
  • All individuals should practice good hand hygiene, and avoid touching their face, nose and eyes with their hands as much as possible
  • Clubs will thoroughly clean and disinfect all commonly touched surfaces daily

The league-wide moratorium on full team training remains in place through Friday, May 15.

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Life after Correa may not be the worst thing. Composite image by Jack Brame.

Carlos Correa is having a damn good year. The Astros shortstop is hitting .285 with 24 homers, 87 RBI, 72 walks, .862 OPS, a 7.2 WAR, and a .981 fielding percentage. In any other year, those would be numbers worthy of being in the mix for AL MVP (if it weren't for that dastardly Shohei Otani). Correa is also in a contract year. He and the Astros were far enough apart that the season started and he's held true to not wanting to negotiate midseason.

The offers of six years for $120 million and five years for $125 million were both rejected by he and his camp. They're seeking something much longer and for more money on the annual average. With the team unwilling to meet those demands, it seems as if the team and the player are headed for a split.

Lots of Astros fans are not happy with the prospect of Correa leaving via free agency. Some think the team isn't doing enough and should pony up to bring him back. Some feel Correa should take what they're offering because it's a fair deal that'll allow the team to sign other players. Then, there's that small band of us that are totally okay with him leaving.

One of the main reasons I'm okay with him leaving is the players the team still has under control that are potential replacements. Aledmys Diaz and Pedro Leon are the first two guys that come to mind. Diaz is a 31-year-old vet who's stepped up when he's called upon. He can slide over to third and allow Alex Bregman to play shortstop. Leon is the team's 23-year-old hot prospect who signed as an outfielder that the team has been trying to turn into a shortstop. If Correa were to leave, he could instantly plug the hole Carlos would leave behind. Either of those options lead to my next point of being okay with Correa leaving which is to...

...allocate that money elsewhere. Whether it's signing a replacement (at short or third), or boosting the pitching staff, I'll be fine as long as it's money well spent. Signing a shortstop or third baseman would determine where Bregman would be playing. If said player takes significantly less than Correa and fills 70-80% of his offensive shoes, it'll be worth it. Others will have to step it up. If they find a deal on a top of the rotation starting pitcher, that would be ideal as well. As I stated a couple of weeks ago, this team has employed a six-man rotation, but doesn't have a true ace. Spending anywhere from $20-30 million a year on a top-notch pitcher to add to the staff would bolster this staff in more ways than one. It'll finally give them the ace they lack, plus it'll bump all the young talent (still under team control) down a peg creating depth and perhaps even creating bullpen depth.

The only way any of this works is if Correa isn't back. Zack Greinke and Justin Verlander's money comes off the books also. Freeing up that much payroll and not re-appropriating those resources to ensure this team stays in contention would be a first degree felony in sports court. I don't think Jim Crane wants that for this team. I for sure don't think James Click wants that as his legacy. Let's sit back and watch how the organization maneuvers this offseason and pray they get it right.


Editor's note: If you want to read the other side of the argument, check out Ken Hoffman's piece from Tuesday.

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