After consulting with city health officials and MLS, D.C. United has been given the all-clear to resume full-team training sessions. Starting tomorrow morning, United will be able to conduct something resembling a normal round of practice for the first time in over three months.
The club yesterday confirmed that an unnamed player has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, but that has apparently had no impact on United’s ability to progress to full-team sessions. There are significant changes from the last step forward, which was a move from individual training at Audi Field to small group sessions.
According to a team press release, there is additional access granted to other parts of Audi Field that, until now, were barred from use. The new weight room, for example, can be used again, though only five people are permitted in at any time. Locker rooms are also now open for use, though the club says it will use the stadium’s other locker rooms in order to space the team out. Lockers being used must be at east 10 feet away from any other locker in use.
All doors and other entry points are to be left open to reduce the chances of transmission, while all equipment and clothing used in the sessions must be cleaned and disinfected after each use. United says that all players will be given individual bottles to drink from, rather than sharing a set as is traditionally the case. There are also restrictions on meals, with players required to keep social distance while eating, and being restricted to pre-packaged meals and individually wrapped utensils.
There are also updates to the team’s testing protocols. On top of the initial rules to join any of the sessions at either Audi Field or Segra Field, players, coaches, and other staff members must pass a Polymerase Chain Reaction test every other day to be present at these full-team practices. Serology tests, which are used to detect Covid-19 antibodies, must be performed once every three months. United says their test providers have FDA approval, and that the turnaround time for a test to be counted is 24 hours.
In the instance of a positive test, the team will isolate the person who tested positive and test them again within 24 hours. Anyone that had close contact with that person “will be tested immediately,” and the club will conduct contact tracing. Anyone that tests positive cannot return to training until cleared by both United’s doctors as well as MLS’s medical team.
While the exact details of United’s schedule at the MLS is Back Tournament are not yet known, it isn’t much of a stretch to come up with a likely opening date. With the event starting on July 8, and MLS apparently planning to play three games a day on most days, the odds are very strong that the Black-and-Red’s first game in Group C would either fall on July 9 or 10. That would leave 24 or 25 days for United to both build whatever fitness and sharpness were lost while players couldn’t train together, and to work on the more conceptual side of the game, like tactical approaches and set pieces.