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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Houston loses first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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