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Orlando Pride players test positive for Covid-19, and more: Freedom Kicks for 6/23/2020

Today’s big news is also bad news

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National Women’s Soccer League Orlando Pride at Washington Spirit Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Phew! A lot of stuff going on yesterday, and not much of it good. Let’s get right to it:

Orlando Pride Statement Regarding 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup Participation |
Six Orlando Pride players, and four team staffers, tested positive for coronavirus, causing the team to withdraw from the NWSL Challenge Cup less than 72 hours before they were set to depart. Avoiding positive tests for entire leagues is impossible (which is why returning to play while the virus is spreading rapidly in some states), but an outbreak like this within one team underlines the hazards involved in returning to play right now.

Six Orlando Pride players test positive for COVID-19 |
As a result of Orlando’s withdrawal, the NWSL will have to sort out a new schedule for the Challenge Cup. They also delayed yesterday’s planned release of every team’s roster, and it’s unclear when those will come out.

Orlando Pride withdraw from Challenge Cup after multiple COVID-19 positives | The Athletic
Some Orlando players went to a bar, which apparently has been determined to be the cause of the first positive by contact tracing. That’s extremely reckless, and may make it difficult for those players to get the Pride or other teams to trust them for quite a while.

On the other hand, there are almost certainly players who stayed home, masked up, and did everything they could, but still ended up getting Covid-19 at training. Don’t assume that every name that comes out

Armchair Analyst: Eastern Conference position battles ahead of MLS is Back Tournament |
I’m not sure I agree that there’s much competition between Yamil Asad and Ulises Segura; if both are fit, Asad’s going to start. There is a real battle elsewhere though: If Oniel Fisher or Chris Odoi-Atsem show enough in training, Ben Olsen is free to consider moving Russell Canouse into central midfield again. Effectively, the battle is five players (Fisher, Odoi-Atsem, Canouse, Felipe, and Junior Moreno) vying for three spots.

Washington Spirit expect to take a big step forward | All for XI
Richie Burke says the Washington Spirit are looking to win the Challenge Cup, and he’s apparently considering a formation change to get his best eleven on the field in Utah. There’s a lot here: Burke’s thoughts on the team’s rookies, and rare high-level data from the 2019 season showing just how good Aubrey Bledsoe, Paige Nielsen, and Sam Staab were last year.

Washington Spirit Agree to 2020 Kit Sponsorship with Progressive Insurance |
The Spirit have had plenty of success finding sponsors since the start of 2019, and ahead of their kit release, they’ve announced that they’ll have a yoke (on the back, just below the collar) sponsor to go along with a sleeve sponsor. Get that dough.

Speaking of dough, financial concerns are apparently going to influence Washington splitting a charter flight to Utah with the North Carolina Courage:

There were plenty of people thinking this was not the safest idea, and I get it. Of course, this might change (along with a lot of other things) now that Orlando’s positive tests have gone public.

Orlando Pride withdraws from NWSL tournament, citing 10 positive tests for coronavirus | Washington Post
Steve Goff is reporting that the Spirit are still likely to take every player in their squad to Utah, which is what I’ve heard as well. He also points out that at this point, the Challenge Cup is the entire season for the league.

Anxiety rising in MLS amid Florida COVID-19 spike, positive player tests | The Athletic
I don’t know about you guys, but I’m starting to think that this was a bad idea.

Club Statement |
I am absolutely sure that the dummies that flew a racist banner over yesterday’s Man City-Burnley game are bad.

Donovan’s World Cup goal against Algeria: The oral history of the most famous moment in USMNT history | ESPN
There’s a line in here from Bob Ley about ending up pacing the room during the game that is exactly what happened to me. Our stories diverge (Bob Ley went on TV to talk about the game very shortly after it ended; I genuinely hyperventilated for the only time in my life), but what a moment.

I think that’s enough. Hope you have a good one today!