This Sunday, the Columbus Crew will face the New England Revolution in the Eastern Conference Final with a spot in MLS Cup Final on the line. Over the two weeks, the Crew has dealt with positive COVID-19 tests to eight different players and in the final stages of preparation for Sunday, which has made getting ready for games difficult. But heading into this East Final, the virus seems to be contained.
Saturday afternoon, head coach Caleb Porter stated that the club had five consecutive days of fully negative test results for players, coaches and other members of staff. The last positive test for the Black & Gold came on Monday and the team decided to not train on Tuesday and Wednesday. Since then, the squad has trained together the last three days before the East Final and Porter is confident that he will receive the news that the team was all negative for a sixth straight day.
“I’ll be waiting by the phone at 7:00 tonight to get the sixth all negative,” Porter said. “I’ll be praying and hoping and then I’ll probably have a glass of wine and go to bed and know that I’ve got my lineup set and my bench set. We’re ready to roll.”
With the current squad of players available to suit up all clear, the biggest question mark comes to the potential of the players returning that missed out on the Nashville SC game last Sunday. Without naming any specific players, Porter explained that certain players who are now “questionable” rather than “not medically cleared to play” probably are unlikely to return in Sunday’s conference final.
“We’ll be getting some guys back and when I say back, basically they are out of the quarantine for 10 days,” explained Porter. “They have gone through the cardiac test but it’s very tricky. If you can imagine a player for 10 days being quarantined with no training, no fitness, because we aren’t able to do anything physical with them to raise their heart rate, it becomes very difficult and tricky for these guys coming back in to be able to play a major role. I think that says it all.”
One concern mentioned for people recovering from COVID-19 is the development of Myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle. Myocarditis is most frequent for younger adults between the ages of 20 and 40. The body’s immune system response to COVID-19 may raise the risk of cardiac inflammation, hence why the Crew and other sports teams are extra careful when getting players back into physical activity.
Currently on the Crew’s injury report, goalkeeper Eloy Room and defender Waylon Francis have been upgraded from “not medically cleared to play” to “questionable.” While Porter wouldn’t use names, these seem likely the players that have just recently returned to practice after testing positive for the virus. Goalkeeper Jon Kempin, midfielders Sebastian Berhalter and Derrick Etienne Jr. and forward Miguel Berry all remain listed as “not medically cleared to play” after being added to the injury list last weekend.
Sunday’s match will kick off at 3 p.m. ET from MAPFRE Stadium on ABC. If the Crew win, the Black & Gold will earn the right to host the 2020 MLS Cup Final. If the Revolution wins, New England will travel to either the Seattle Sounders or to Minnesota United for the Final.