It took more than four months of play but 2020 finally caught up to the Columbus Crew over the weekend. On Saturday night, the Black & Gold announced that the team would not travel to Orlando City for the scheduled Sunday game due to two staff members testing positive for COVID-19. The game, instead, was postponed.
The team, in conjunction with Major League Soccer, made the smart decision to not get on a plane to Orlando in order to avoid any potential further spread, which could cause more issues.
“First of all, we don’t panic,” captain Jonathan Mensah said of the situation. “We have our team doctors and the doctors in the league giving us all the guidelines on how to stay safe and minimize the spread. Obviously none of us from the playing body has tested positive. So we just need to be vigilant, especially what we do outside, when we get off the field. And we’ve done a great job of that.”
Since the positive tests over the weekend, the Crew is now in the clear. The team had three rounds of negative COVID-19 tests across the board, meaning MLS allowed the Black & Gold to return to training. On Monday, head coach Caleb Porter’s side was permitted to do small group activities at the team’s facility and on Tuesday, Columbus could return to normal practice.
This meant two days off from the norm, including missing the game against Orlando.
“Obviously it disrupted a little bit of the calendar but it didn’t disrupt our focus and our preparation,” Jonathan said. “We still remain focused, preparing for a game and now we have one tomorrow. So our focus never changed and we kept preparing for the upcoming games.”
Next on the schedule is Ohio rivals FC Cincinnati this Wednesday. After dropping its first home game of the season last Wednesday, the Crew was always going to be motivated to bounce back. And while the Black & Gold had a few extra days to think about that loss, they also had additional time to recover in a month that originally scheduled them for seven games in 25 days.
While a staff member testing positive for COVID-19 is certainly not a positive, the Columbus players, who have been through a crazy schedule this year already, certainly weren’t turning down an extra day or two of rest.
“Obviously we want to get into the rhythm of coming back from a game where we lost and we’re hungry to win the next one,” Jonathan said. “But at the same time, it might be a blessing in disguise for us to get a couple of days rest even though we still got some work.’
As for the disruption to the team’s rhythm, Porter is not concerned. Throughout this strange season, there has been little time for regular practices and most of the preparation for the next opponent has been done while recovering or in walk-throughs.
Perhaps it’s also a blessing then that the Crew is playing an FC Cincinnati side it has already seen three times this year.
“On the long list of weird things this year, that’s probably low on the list, strangely enough. But it’s definitely weird,” Porter said of the unusually high games against the in-state foe. “To play a team four times in a year, it rarely happens… It is a team that we know because we’ve played them a lot. Obviously we have, in the three games, two wins and one draw (against Cincinnati).”
While the Crew’s attention has already shifted to Cincinnati, it is likely that Orlando will still be on the Black & Gold’s schedule in the future. MLS is working with both teams to find a date to reschedule this match before the season’s completion in early November.
“I know (president and general manager) Tim Bezbatchenko is working with the league regarding that reschedule and some potential dates,” Porter said. “So we should know hopefully in the next several days, especially if they’re going to put that game sooner than later. But we have some potential dates. There aren’t many open dates. There are basically three open dates that we could play and the league has to decide on that, of course.”