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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Keep an eye on Alex Bowman this weekend. Image via: Wiki Commons.

For the first time since July 1984, NASCAR returns to one of its most popular cities in Nashville, Tennessee for the inaugural Ally 400 at Nashville Super Speedway. This track is a 1 1/3rd mile concrete oval that was dormant for nearly ten years and was only used as a testing facility. So it came as a bit of a surprise last season when it was announced that this track would be getting a date. For a lot of drivers, this will be a brand new racetrack, but we will see practice and qualifying, so that will be a huge help for the newcomers that haven't raced here before. Back when the Xfinity and Trucks ran here, this track featured a lot of first time winners. Back in 2008, future NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski shocked the world by jumping in Dale Jr's car and capturing his first win here. There will be a lot of veterans like Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick who have plenty of experience at this track, but it will be tough to compare. It should be fun with everyone coming into this race with minimal knowledge.

Last week, Kyle Larson continued his hot streak by winning the All-Star Race. Overall, while Larson and his Hendrick teammates probably enjoyed the race, the feedback from crews and fans was less than positive. As I was walking through the garage area and talking to a few crew members, a lot of them were very critical of the 450 horsepower motor and the tall spoiler to try and keep the cars bunched up. When I asked one of the crew-members what he thought about the package he told me, "Oh it's awful. The track is terrible, the package makes it impossible to pass and it's super hot out here." On green flag runs, it was the same as it ever was as the lead car would pretty much take off and the only time there was really any "pack racing" it came after there were restarts. The whole race was well-intentioned and the fans showed up as it was nearly a capacity crowd, but the whole thing just didn't make any sense. From the start time being in the nearly 100 degree heat to the wacky full-field invert at the end of each stage. Let's hope that next season's All-Star Race is a lot more concise.

In Silly Season news this week, Truck Series regulars GMS racing announced that they would be fielding a full-time cup series team. The team is currently owned by Allegiant Airlines CEO Maurice Gallagher and his son, Spencer, who used to drive for them in the Xfinity Series. This move seemed to come from out of nowhere as there was never any indication that this was a move they were exploring anytime soon after they turned down the opportunity to purchase Furniture Row Racing in 2019. This is certainly a great sight for the sport as there will be more new teams on the track and with their close relationship with Chevy, it wouldn't be a surprise if they step in and help this team become competitive. The favorite to drive their car has to be 2020 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed. He has easily been their best driver in trucks, and it would make the most sense for him to get the promotion.

This week at Nashville, the driver that I have winning is Alex Bowman. Now while this is a brand new racetrack and he has a grand total of zero starts here, this track suits his driving style perfectly. With the inclusion of this track, there are now four tracks with a concrete surface. Nashville, Bristol, Dover and Martinsville. At the three of the tracks they have run at, he has shown a lot of speed, including a victory at Dover this season and a top ten finish at Bristol. This is also a track where crew-chief Greg Ives said Bowman has gravitated towards during testing. In an interview with Sirius XM Ives was quoted as saying "we used to have a lot of fun testing there," so this is clearly a track that they both enjoy going to. Another big factor going into Sunday will be just how fast these Hendrick Motorsports cars are, they have finished 1-2 over the last four points races. He has watched his teammates Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott have immense success, and now this week I think he is due for a third win of the season. Look for the bright purple #48 Chevy to go to victory lane this week at Nashville.

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