On Thursday afternoon, the USL announced that the USL Championship would resume play, with a return date of July 11. The league mentioned the date was provisional, with scheduling, broadcasting and other logistical details to be announced in the coming weeks, though Sports Illustrated reports the league expects teams to play at their own venues.
For Loudoun United, the team has remained socially distant from each other since the suspension of the 2020 season on March 12, shortly after the team’s Week 1 scoreless draw with the Philadelphia Union II. The team has had to make do with an individual workout plan, and while USL clubs were allowed to resume voluntary training on May 11, Loudoun County did not begin Phase One of reopening until last Friday, which was when D.C. United used Segra Field for individual training. However, Loudoun has been meeting frequently on Zoom sessions, coach Ryan Martin expects a lot of smiling faces on his next one, and found himself enjoying the news as well.
“You take these coaching courses, I took the UEFA and U.S. Soccer courses, and they don’t prepare you for how to deal with a pandemic or the George Floyd protests, or a season that doesn’t have a start date. It’s unknown but it’s exciting because we’re all in this together.”
Martin found out about the news shortly before the league made it official and has been sorting through details and planning on bringing the group back to training in a healthy and safe way. He expects that when the team returns to play that a lot of compression in both training and game dates to be in order.
“Our assumption is we are going to have at least a three week build-up with a preseason and full team training, so that gives us two weeks to work in terms of small groups and individuals. We haven’t been given a schedule, but I’m hearing it will be around 20 games, it will be compressed and the way I phrased it to the guys is like a college soccer season on steroids.”
Along with planning to bring his players back, Martin’s role as an MLS2 coach means that he usually gets some players from D.C.’s roster. DCU homegrowns Moses Nyeman and Kevin Paredes both played in Loudoun’s only league match of 2020, but given that the first team will be in Florida for their own competition, Martin is preparing to use the entirety of Loudoun United’s roster.
“We have to mentally prepare that we’re not going to get anybody from D.C. (since) they’re going to be in Florida. (They) could play three games and come home, or they could play six games and win the championship. So I told the guys it’s a tremendous opportunity where some might not have been getting minutes. We’re going to have to use everybody, we’re preparing for a rotation of players and the amount of travel.”
With the restart of the season brings renewed goals that were put on hold three months ago. “We know soccer’s back. We know we’re kicking off, we know we have a very good group and we’re ready to collectively do it.”