Friday’s soccer news starts with a long weekend of FA Cup action in England, where the games keep on coming. Except when enough positive coronavirus tests mean fielding a youth team. Aston Villa is the latest team to run into the realities of the pandemic. Due to the constraints of the schedule, their only other options is hope there is space for a new date or to forfeit.
“Aston Villa can confirm that the Club has closed its Bodymoor Heath training ground after a significant coronavirus outbreak,” the club announced on Thursday. “A large number of first team players and staff returned positive tests after being routinely tested on Monday and immediately went into isolation. A second round of testing was carried out immediately and produced more positive results today. First team training ahead of tomorrow’s FA Cup match with Liverpool was canceled.”
They’re not the only ones. Duane Holmes’s Derby County is in the same situation for their FA Cup game at Chorley. “Those that have tested positive for COVID-19, and those that have been in close contact with those individuals, must self-isolate for a period of time,” the Championship club’s statement read. “As the first-team coaching staff, backroom team and players are currently self-isolating, staff and players at Saturday’s match will be predominantly made up from the club’s Under-23 and Under-18 set-ups.”
Shrewsbury took the postponement option rather than send an unrepresentative lineup to play Sunderland. There’s the real possibility the FA’s Professional Game Board decides there isn’t room on the schedule.
Postponements are happening so regularly across the English leagues in recent weeks to have some stakeholders asking if it’s time to suspend the schedule. The Premier League games get the attention, but the rest of the English professional leagues are dealing with similar or worse problems with clubs unable to field a team. The official response is to press on considering the limited amount of time to get the season in. It’s been worth asking since the summer why so many games across three domestic tournaments are considered necessary.
As multiple people have already pointed out, the main concession from English soccer authorities is no FA Cup replays. That has been a sticking point in prior seasons because that appeal to nostalgia only adds to the normal fixture congestion. It’s obvious that common sense hasn’t fully taken hold given the games still on the schedule. Crowning a League Cup winner has merit. So does streamlining the schedule in the midst of a pandemic that health officials warned would get worse.
That’s where English soccer finds itself this weekend in what’s normally a celebration of upsets and big clubs in small stadiums. They’re facing that basic and nagging question. Why is once again insisting on getting the games in so important right now?
The Independent’s Miguel Delaney on the realities the FA Cup and the league schedule need to face. The Irish Examiner’s Mark Staniforth has Aston Villa manager Steve Bruce making the obvious point about his club’s situation. The Press Association with Brighton manager Graham Potter’s reminder about the status of soccer during a pandemic. The World Game’s Philip Micallef sees stubbornness from authorities.
Also in the soccer news, Yunus Musah didn’t play in Valencia’s 4-1 win at Yeclano Deportivo in the second round of the Copa del Rey. Lee Kang-In scored for Valencia in the 7th minute with Uros Racic doubling the lead in the 9th. Ruben Sobrino made it 3-0 Valencia in the 34th. Yeclano Deportivo pulled a goal back in the 46th with Thierry Correira finishing off the Valencia goals in the 53rd minute.
There is no ‘A’ and ‘B’ team,” Valencia coach Javi Garcia said. “I value my entire squad, and with the frequency of the games that we have, it’s important to conserve energy and take care of the players. I make evaluations every day. I don’t need to see a player’s performance in a game. I evaluate all of them, and I pick the best. I am happy with today’s game, and we will see what choice we make for the next one.
SI.com’s Brian Straus has MLS president Mark Abbott talking about the league’s finances in the pandemic era. The Salt Lake Tribune’s Alex Vajar reports that MLS is stepping in on the sale of Real Salt Lake. MLSsoccer’s Charles Boehm on the next stage for Inter Miami. The Boston Globe’s Frank Dell’Apa looks at two additions to the New England Revolution roster. The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jonathan Tannenwald interviews new KRC Genk player Mark McKenzie. The Washington Post’s Stephen Goff talks to former USMNT player Steve Cherundolo about potentially coaching in MLS.
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