MLS: Fitness concerns real and the measures to combat them

MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 23: Head coach Diego Alonso reacts during a training session at Barry University on January 23, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - JANUARY 23: Head coach Diego Alonso reacts during a training session at Barry University on January 23, 2020 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

As MLS endures a 30-day postponement with players in self-isolation, very real fitness concerns are present. But what are teams doing to combat them?

The coronavirus has ripped through the sporting schedule. Across the globe, sports events have been played behind closed doors, postponed or even cancelled entirely as the world deals with what the World Health Organisation has now described as a pandemic.

It remains to be seen just what the extent of the COVID-19 outbreak will be on sport and the upcoming calendar. The problem is not yet fully understood and there could be long-lasting impacts throughout every industry.

For Major League Soccer, teams are currently in the midst of a 30-day postponement. That could yet be extended, but for now, games are scheduled to return on the weekend of April 11th/12th. Thay would represent a month on the sidelines.

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Even more pertinent than the lack of games, however, is the present moratorium on training. As per the health advice of the government, MLS suspended all first-team training until the end of this week. The training moratorium applies to first-team training, reserve teams and academies and will see all club-based activities suspended for the foreseeable future. It is highly likely that the ban is extended beyond the present Friday 20th deadline.

This presents a unique challenge for all MLS teams. While the COVID-19 outbreak has obviously ripped through the heart of sport, — and society more generally — when the normal schedule returns in time, there will be major knock-on effects from having such an extended period without any competitive action or senior training.

Speaking to, Garrison Draper, the head of performance at the Philadelphia Union, explained what the key goals will be for teams during this hiatus:

"“The players whose strengths don’t change during the season are the players who stay the healthiest. That’s one of our big goals, it’s something we’re going to drive home that we need to continue with the consistency of our lifting and that work. It wouldn’t be anything different from a normal offseason program, but we’re just in limbo for how long we’ll be in this situation.”"

Meanwhile, FC Dallas assistant athletic performance coach Vander Salas explained how he and his staff are attempting to maintain the strength and weight of their players:

"“The most important thing is for the boys to maintain their ideal weight, which they know, and their fitness level We’re doing a lot of functional exercises. They don’t have access to gyms, so they need to use their own body. We’re using drills with accelerations and plyometric. Actually, we’re filming videos every day in our backyard so they can see if we can do it, they can as well. If they don’t have cones, they can use shoes”"

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As has been increasingly understood around the world, the coronavirus is having impacts that very few could have expected. The fitness of the players will be another effect, and until the games get going again, whenever that may be, we will not quite know the extent of it.