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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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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