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MLS playoffs: Philadelphia Union hit hard with COVID-19 concerns ahead of Eastern Conference final vs. NYCFC

The Philadelphia Union could be at risk of missing several key names for their home playoff match against New York City FC in the Eastern Conference final. The winner books a ticket to the 2021 MLS Cup. Only nine players were spotted in Friday’s training as good chunk of the players entered the league’s COVID health and safety protocols. Safe to say things are up in the air for who will be available for Philly coach Jim Curtin.

Union defender Olivier Mbaizo has been sidelined the past two games while in the COVID protocol but was eligible to return this week. Training had to be canceled on Thursday, but those who could train returned Friday. That said, Curtin’s comments on Friday did not paint a positive outlook.

“There’s been a lot of emotion, uniqueness this week,” Curtin said. “We were unable to train yesterday due to players going in health and safety protocols of MLS. We were able to return today. We will follow league protocol with hope of having as many players as possible for Sunday.”

Digging a little deeper if who was in training today, is close to who is available, there won’t be enough players for the game to take place

Philadelphia midfielder Leon Flach, 20, wasn’t mentioned in the picture above but was also present in Friday’s training. But with MLS protocol being murky it is unclear what will happen. Each member of the team would be considered a tier-one individual for league purposes as social distancing and face masks aren’t always possible for them.

In the case of the positive tests, contact tracing has already happened but the protocol states that even if a player tests negative, they must self-isolate and return one additional negative rapid PCR test taken 24 hours after the negative result. This would mean with the game being Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, there isn’t much time if a negative test isn’t returned by Saturday morning.

Anyone who tests positive could run the risk of missing MLS Cup, but that is the least of the Union’s worries as they need to make it there first. Once it is determined what members of the team have actually tested positive, that’s when close contacts come into play. Depending on what event caused the outbreak, people classed as being in close contact can take part in match play as long as they undergo daily testing, quarantine when not doing essential job functions, and wear a face mask.

Only if someone is a high-risk close contact would they have to isolate and not play in matches. High-risk contacts are anyone who lives together, exchanges bodily fluids, gathers in an enclosed space for 15 or more minutes with the person or persons who tested positive 48 hours prior to their positive test. Eating within six feet of each other would also fall into this class.

Fully vaccinated players can be exempt from their quarantine requirement if they return a positive test but those who aren’t vaccinated must observe a five-day quarantine. This would mean that if any members of the Union aren’t vaccinated and didn’t participate in training, they would virtually have to sit out Sunday’s game due to close contacts. Anyone else has a shot of making the match with enough negative tests and hope.




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