Questionable Decisions Led to Removal of Nashville SC From MLS is Back Tournament

MLS announced today that Nashville SC has been removed from the MLS is Back Tournament. It wasn’t surprising given five Nashville SC players tested positive for COVID-19 forcing the postponement of their match versus Chicago Fire earlier in the week. Then tonight just before kickoff of the opening tournament match it was announced four additional players tested positive leaving the league little choice. It’s a big blow for the club as their opening match versus Chicago would have been on ESPN with no competition from other sports. TV ratings for the Bundesliga and NWSL have been up significantly with the lack of live sports viewing options. A missed opportunity to gain new fans and attempt to pick up the momentum that was lost after the Atlanta United home opener due to coronavirus. Fans will have to wait at least another month before getting to see the team play. Only one other MLS club, FC Dallas, was removed from the tournament due to an outbreak of COVID-19 among the players. Why is that given the majority of MLS teams come from bigger cities where there are more positive cases than in the Music City? Even more surprising according to Iliana Limón Romero of the Orlando Sentinel MLS announced it tested 1,888 players, coaches and referees on Tuesday and Wednesday and only had four positive COVID-19 results. While it’s possible it was just bad luck, there is evidence of questionable decisions that were made.

Players Weren’t Careful

Numerous players were spotted out downtown over the past month according to multiple fans of Nashville SC. Anyone who has ever been to Lower Broadway knows it is a petri dish for spreading COVID-19 due to the lack of masks and social distancing. Specifically, Brayan Beckeles is one of these players that was spotted at the Nashville Underground. In an interview with Diario Deportivo Diez on Monday night he said that he was just made aware that he tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s certainly possible he caught it from a teammate, but this is a bad look given his earlier actions. For those that don’t know the Nashville Underground is a 40,000 square foot restaurant, bar and live music space on Broadway. Metro Public Health had to visit the bar to make it close Saturday while it was still operating despite an order shuttering such establishments. Nashville Underground was not cited after they agreed to close. To be clear, I don’t know how often or when Beckeles was at Nashville Underground. Perhaps he never went there. I just know multiple people that are big fans of Nashville SC have tweeted about him or other players being out. I’ve also heard rumors that many players are understandably upset with those that didn’t take the quarantine seriously. Perhaps others with access to the players might ask and shed more light on this.

Front Office Failure

Paul Tenorio reported Thursday, July 2nd that Nashville SC had players sit on buses for 90 minutes without knowing if anyone had tested positive for COVID-19. While I understand how this could have happened it doesn’t make it any less irresponsible on part of the front office. The team was trying to fly down to Orlando for the tournament. The first match was in less than a week and the team hadn’t trained in 3 days. The pressure to get the team down to Florida and settled in was high. That said, placing the players together on a bus before getting the test results back was irresponsible. The club knew they had at least one positive test result. Sam Stejskal reported Wednesday, July 1 that Nashville SC had a positive test the day before on Tuesday June 30th. I suspect the flight was pushed back a day so they could get confirmation of that result and I assume results for all the other players whom he surely had been in contact with. While I assume the positive player was kept isolated from the group why would they have placed multiple players together without knowing the results? The timeline we know

    * Month of June – Some players seen out at downtown bars and venues
    * Tuesday, June 30th – one Nashville SC player test positive for COVID-19
    * Thursday, July 2nd – players wait 90 minutes on bus with test results still pending before being sent home.
    * Sunday, July 5th – 5 Nashville SC players test positive for COVID-19 upon arriving in the Orlando “bubble”
    * Wednesday, July 8th – 4 more Nashville SC players test positive bringing the total to 9
    * Thursday, July 9th – MLS removes Nashville SC from MLS is Back Tournament

Given the timeline it is clear things weren’t handled well. No one will ever no for sure if the decision to bring the players together on buses hoping to fly to Orlando led to the spread of COVID-19 within the team. That said, like players choosing to go out to bars, it doesn’t look good and fans have the right to question the decisions that were made. It would also be nice to know how much testing Nashville was doing prior to June 30th? How many players and how often? The most important thing now is for the team to get healthy. Unfortunately they have over a month to do so. One has to wonder what locker room issues this might have created. It would be understandable for those players that did everything right to be angry. Certainly some apologies seem to be in order.