Inter Miami players offer peek inside MLS tournament bubble

Inter Miami players offer peek inside MLS tournament bubble

Inter Miami players have spent two days living inside the bubble at the MLS is Back Tournament in Orlando, and so far, the reviews are good.

They spent their off day Thursday playing golf and hanging out in their team lounge at the hotel, which is equipped with video games, card tables and is decorated with photos, banners and scarves of their supporter groups.

First and foremost, they feel safe, said midfielder Wil Trapp and defender Nico Figal, who spoke to the media Friday morning via a Zoom conference. All Inter Miami players and staff tested negative for COVID-19 upon arrival, and they will be tested regularly throughout the tournament.

They are staying on their own floor of the Swan and Dolphin resort, isolated from the other 25 teams. Each player has his own room. All meals are on-site and follow strict health protocols.

During the period of July 1-2, a total of 855 players, coaches, referees and league staff underwent on-site testing for the coronavirus. Of that group, six tested positive, the league announced Thursday night. FC Dallas announced that six players tested positive since arriving in Orlando on June 27, another three reportedly tested positive, according to The Athletic, and the Columbus Crew announced that a first-team player had consecutive positive tests, bringing to 10 the total of on=site positive tests league-wide.

“It’s certainly interesting, a scenario none of us have experienced before,” Trapp said. “As soon as you get here it becomes very spelled out in terms of what the protocol is from immediate testing to group self-isolating in our wing until we got test results, every player is in their own room. It’s been an interesting task for us, but we’re in interesting times and we have to be safe and secure in this moment.”

Figal added: “We’ve been talking amongst ourselves about how comfortable we feel here, how organized everything is, all the amenities, the food, the rooms. We feel very protected here and are excited to play our first match.”

Both players said the time together has helped with team bonding, especially because Inter Miami is a new team and players were just getting to know each other when the league was suspended in mid-March. Inter Miami opens the MLS is Back Tournament on Wednesday at 8 p.m. against Orlando City.

“We have a great lounge guys can convene in with PlayStation, FIFA and other games,” Trapp said. “[Thursday] we had a nice time, could stretch our legs a little bit and go golfing. It was pretty amazing to see some novice golf players and some seasoned vets. It was great, not just for the mental side of this, but for team building, as well.

“When you’re isolated in one player to a room, we’re used to having roommates and you have that sense of community when you’re in a hotel and now that’s obviously not the case, so having a shared space for us as a team is vital not just for the mental health of being in this scenario but also for seeing the love and support of our club. It will help build stronger ties.”

Figal said the recreational activities provided in the bubble are a welcome respite during these tough times.

“This situation has paralyzed us all, so having a safe environment here to relax and clear our heads has been a good thing,” Figal said.

Trapp said knowing other players in the league have tested positive for COVID-19 in Orlando is unsettling, and they are taking warnings seriously.

“It’s certainly something we’ve abruptly been faced with,” Trapp said. “We’re players and we want to play. But wer’re also human beings, and this is bigger than sports. The health and safety of everyone here is paramount and I think the biggest thing we can control is how we address the protocols in front of us. Do the things you’re told. Be safe. Keep distance. Because it’s not just you, it’s your team, the entire league as a player pool and you have to be smart. You have to be thinking about your fellow human beings always.”

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Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman has covered 14 Olympics, six World Cups, Wimbledon, U.S. Open, NCAA Basketball Tournaments, NBA Playoffs, and has been the University of Miami basketball beat writer for 20 years. She was born in Frederick, Md., and grew up in Miami.

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