Late Monday night, the Colorado Rapids’ charter flight from Denver International Airport arrived in Orlando. The team safely checked into the Walt Disney World Resort/MLS exclusive Swan and Dolphin Resort.
The team was originally scheduled to depart for Orlando on the morning of Sunday, July 5th. The buses were loaded, the players and staff were waiting, and then everything was brought to a halt.
Per MLS COVID-19 testing guidelines, antigen testing was conducted 72 hours prior to the scheduled departure. As reported on Sunday, two individuals received false-positive results that morning. The departure was immediately postponed and the delegation sent back to their respective residences. Children of players cheered when they returned to pick up their respective fathers. The two individuals were isolated and immediately retested on Sunday afternoon. Negative test results were confirmed and the team’s travel plans were rebooted. Game on.
According to the team, the false-positive individuals have remained in Colorado while awaiting a second consecutive negative test result before rejoining the group in Orlando.
Once again, Senior Equipment Manager Hayden Andrews packed the bellies of two luxury buses with bags of balls, goalkeeping training gear, boots, home and away kits, training garb and fitness monitoring technology, plus several dozen rolling suitcases. A stockpile of personal food and entertainment consoles made it onto the busses too.
Pádraig Smith, Colorado Rapids Executive VP & General Manager, said that they’re “excited to get back on the field and play meaningful games again. This is a deep, talented and hungry group who want to compete for trophies. We had a fantastic start to the season and we want to keep that momentum going and put ourselves in a position to bring home some silverware.”
ESPN Wide World of Sports complex
Preferring to train at altitude and within the closed confines of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park—and thanks to the travel delay—the Rapids were the last team to arrive at the MLS is Back Tournament. The Burgundy Boys will have five days to acclimate to the oppressive Central Florida heat, humidity, and their placid surroundings—both at their Disney World Resort accommodations and nearby ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (also owned by Disney). They will be training in the evenings to avoid the heat and humidity and the players are running through fitness and strength exercises at their hotel. As for medical staff, MLS is providing each team with a team of doctors and assistants to tend to players needs in the hotel, at practices, and during matches.
The 220-acre ESPN Wide World of Sports complex’s training and playing facilities are impressive. It is complete with a 7,500-seat minor league-style baseball stadium and four ancillary baseball diamonds, a 5,000-seat multi-sport field house, a 70,000-square-foot arena, and an 8,000-seat volleyball/basketball entertainment center. This past January, the National Football League hosted its 2019 ProBowl training sessions on several regulation football fields. The National Basketball Association will soon attempt to complete its suspended season here as well.
With 17 regulation soccer fields, MLS teams will be shuttled to and from their hotels to practice and play. Three fields are designated for games and the other 14 are for training. In addition, the League and teams will convert hotel rooms and ballroom space into team-specific indoor fitness, physical therapy, and wellness centers. In the event of injury, the team will turn to on-site MLS physicians for evaluation and treatment, if needed.
Playing by the rules
Upon their arrival in Florida, the Rapids traveling party were immediately tested. Players can begin training and staff may begin working only upon receipt of a negative result from the first antigen detection assay. The process involves using a diagnostic laboratory procedure referred to as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), which amplifies the number of copies of the COVID-19 RNA found in the patient’s swab sample, thereby making it easier to be detected in the subsequent antigen detection assay.
During an individual’s first two weeks in Orlando, they will be tested every other day. After the first 14 days, players, coaches, and PRO staff will be tested regularly, including the day before each match.
Additionally, self-temperature screenings and the completion of standardized screening questionnaires will be required for all individuals traveling to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex or providing services at the hotel and convention center where MLS league and club personnel will be staying.
A positive response to the daily questionnaire or a temperature check above 100.3 degrees must be reported. The individual in question will be isolated immediately and further testing will be performed.
In addition to the screenings and testing, an MLS task force has worked with leading experts to create best practices to help reduce risk and prevent the spread of COVID-19. These include:
- Wearing face coverings/face masks
- Social distancing
- Good hygiene practices (avoid touching face, washing hands frequently, avoid sharing food, bottles, towels, or equipment)
- Cleaning and sanitization of surfaces
While the team members are not training and/or competing, they will kick back and be afforded excursions to play golf, swim in the Resort pools, and play games in a team-specific recreation area.
How to Watch and Listen
According to Rapids TV play-by-play announcer, Richard Fleming, he will be teaming up with Marcelo Balboa and former player Alan Gordon to produce weekly preview shows for Altitude TV. Fleming and Balboa will also provide play-by-play for the games on Altitude Radio. Rapids radio play-by-play announcer Connor Cape will be hosting the pregame and postgame shows for Altitude radio, including a 90-minute pregame show on Sunday.
Defender Drew Moor and Digital Host Rachel Vigil are scheduled to deliver weekly, 30-minute podcasts that will include questions and answers from fans, player and staff interviews, news updates from training sessions, and previews of upcoming matches.
ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, TUDN, Fox, and FS1 will air all the matches on their respective channels throughout the tournament. The Rapids’ first game is against Real Salt Lake on Sunday, July 12th at 8:30 p.m. MDT.