LAFC defender Jordan Harvey is writing an occasional diary for the Los Angeles Times during his team’s time in quarantine at the MLS Is Back tournament in Orlando, Fla. This is the second installment.
Game on! The tournament has finally started.
For Monday’s opening game, a 3-3 draw with the Houston Dynamo, players were able to choose a person we wished to honor — a front-line worker or a person committed to driving positive social change and ending racial injustice through the Black Lives Matter movement — and write their name on our jersey.
I chose Tunde Oyeneyin, who is like a sister to me, because she’s creating great change in the world. Her SPEAK Movement is amplifying uncomfortable conversations and giving people from various backgrounds a platform to raise their voice.
This tournament is constantly shifting focus and for me it was great to have a game to look forward to because there is still this huge dark cloud hanging over what will happen with the two teams that are no longer in the tournament but still in the hotel.
I spoke with former teammate Walker Zimmerman, now with Nashville, about the challenges his team is facing after being withdrawn from the tournament when nine players tested positive for COVID-19. We spoke about what a huge loss leaving the tournament is for his guys as well as the major setback this causes for the organization moving forward. Not getting any meaningful games for six months is a tough pill to swallow, especially for an expansion team.
The concerns the remaining teams are dealing with, such as food and accommodations, seem minimal compared to the obstacles both Dallas and Nashville are dealing with. How do the 20-plus players who tested positive for COVID-19 return home? Do the players who haven’t contracted COVID-19 leave them behind?
All the positive tests and the false positives, these act as barriers teams must break though in preparing for games. The other factor that could postpone a game, the weather, doesn’t even faze guys at this point.
Of course we knew it was going to be hot and humid playing in Florida in the middle of summer but now with thunderstorms every afternoon, delays are inevitable. With all that said, everyone seems to be rolling with it and staying positive. Collectively, our group is determined to make this work and we’re focused on the reason we’re here, the football.
I finally got a chance to watch some of the games on television and it made me realize what a huge achievement this tournament is for the league and what a massive display of commitment it has been from the players. It was a breath of fresh air and I may be in the minority here, but I actually enjoyed the fake crowd noise. It might seem strange because clearly no one is in the stands, but anyone who has seen an LAFC game knows the amazing atmosphere our supporters create.
Our first game against Houston was as expected: a battle to the bitter end with our team rallying from a two-goal deficit to a draw. It’s funny to note that sharing a resort with other teams means you’ll be seeing them back at the hotel. Imagine getting back to the hotel and then sharing an elevator with your opponent as you both retrace every step you made in the game.
That didn’t happen Monday, as least not for me, but it could have.
A lot of firsts down here.
Now as we prepare for the Galaxy on Saturday it’s all about recovery and preparation. I’ll probably have a word with the TV production staff because they may need to raise the volume on the fake crowd noise for this match if they want to give viewers an idea of what El Trafico is truly about, the fans.