Galaxy general manager Dennis te Kloese said Friday that Major League Soccer’s plans to complete a full 34-game season this year are overly optimistic given the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Being realistic, within the country there’s different issues,” he said. “For a league that’s so spread out, there’s a lot of travel involved. There’s a lot of restrictions in different parts of the country.
“It makes it a challenge to generalize things and it makes it a challenge to come to a conclusion that you can put everybody together and just play as normal.”
MLS was two games into its 25th anniversary season when spread of the novel coronavirus brought games to a halt on March 12. The league initially suspended play for a month, later pushing that pause back four more weeks to May 10.
But with Los Angeles County, home to the Galaxy and LAFC, extending its stay-at-home order until May 15, it’s uncertain when either team will be allowed to resume training or games. Dr. Jeffrey Smith, executive officer of Santa Clara County where the San Jose Earthquakes play, suggested it may be later — much later — than May when he said earlier in the week that he didn’t anticipate “any sports games until at least Thanksgiving, and we’d be lucky to have them by Thanksgiving.”
And that’s just California, a state that has had remarkable success flattening the coronavirus curve. With the virus spreading at different rates in different states, it’s unlikely COVID-19 protections will be lifted at the same time across the country and MLS has teams in 17 states, three Canadian provinces and the District of Columbia.
“The idea to keep alive that there’s going to be a full season, I think, is an idea that everybody is given,” Te Kloese said. “Obviously the motivation and hope is to get everybody done.
“That’s going to be very challenging.”
Te Kloese said MLS has an advantage in that it has the rest of 2020 to work with. If the league was able to resume play in late July with teams playing twice a week, it could complete a full regular season, including playoffs, by Christmas.
But, given travel and other issues, that’s an ambitious timetable.
Another option would be resuming play in empty stadiums.
“It will be something that I think everybody is looking into because you have to,” Te Kloese said. “It’s going to be a challenge to have a lot of people sitting together without the proper sanitary protection.
“When there’s more testing with short-term results, it will bring everybody back to life and everybody hope. Until then, there’s still come challenges.”
However, Te Kloese repeatedly said, the challenges of resuming a soccer season pale in comparison to the real-life challenges COVID-19 has caused for many. And losing a few games — even a season — can’t compare to what others have lost.
”I am 100% aware that there’s people with far bigger challenges,” he said. “The main idea is that everybody’s safe first.
“We have the privilege of being in the sport. We now need to be the first ones to give something back.”
Te Kloese also confirmed reports that Cincinnati has formally expressed interest in Galaxy assistant Dominic Kinnear for its vacant head coaching position.
“I really appreciate his work with us,” Te Kloese said of Kinnear, who won two MLS Cups with the Houston Dynamo. “The players positively relate to him. I can see why Cincinnati would like to have him.”