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'We have to trust the league,' Bojan says as Impact fly to Florida

Montreal Impact midfielder Bojan trips over Deportivo Saprissa's Aubrey David during second half of the CONCACAF Champions League game at Olympic Stadium in February.
Montreal Impact midfielder Bojan trips over Deportivo Saprissa's Aubrey David during second half of the CONCACAF Champions League game at Olympic Stadium in February.

Trust.

That was the word Impact midfielder Bojan used Wednesday when asked if he was worried about the coronavirus as the team prepared to leave for Orlando, the site of the MLS is Back tournament that begins July 8.

“We have to trust the league and the people they’re working with to keep us safe,” Bojan said in a videoconferencing call. “This isn’t like anything we’ve ever experienced before.”

Bojan’s comments came the same day MLS announced that six members of FC Dallas tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Orlando and have been placed in quarantine.

All 26 MLS teams will gather in Orlando and they will live and compete in a bubble at the ESPN Wide World of Sports, which is part of the Walt Disney World complex.  Each team will play three games in the group stage with the top 16 teams advancing to a knockout stage, which will lead to the final on Aug. 11.

“I think everyone is excited to be playing football again after three months of not being able to train,” said Bojan, who was touted as the next Lionel Messi when he was a teenager at Barcelona. “The team has been working very hard and we’re ready to play. It’s different because we’re going right into a tournament without any games to prepare, but it’s the same for everybody so there are no excuses.”

The Impact is in a group with arch-rival Toronto FC, D.C. United and the New England Revolution. Toronto FC is one of the six seeded teams in the group stage, but Bojan took exception when he was told that some pundits feel the Impact could be the surprise team in the group.

“I won’t be surprised because I think we should advance to the knockout stage,” Bojan said. “We beat Toronto in the Canadian championship last year and I think we’ll be very competitive.”

MLS will be serving as a guinea pig for other pro leagues. It’s the first North American league to resume play and the NBA and NHL will be monitoring its experiences before beginning in their own bubbles.

The NBA will also be in Orlando later this month, and ESPN commentator Stephen A. Smith raised the question of how NBA players are going to handle three months without sex.

“Do we really think the ‘recreational activities’ that these guys are accustomed to are going to be compromised for three months?” Smith asked. “I mean, somebody’s gotta say it.

“You really, really think somebody’s gonna be without their wives or their woman? … You really, really think they’re honouring a bubble for three months?”

When it was pointed out that wives and girlfriends would be welcomed after the first month, Smith replied: “Forget three months, they’re gonna struggle with three weeks! Why do you think they wanted Vegas?”

Bojan said he is resigned to spending a lot of time in his hotel room, reading and studying for his ultimate goal of a job in sports management.

Head coach Thierry Henry’s task will be to keep his players ready and focused. He has experience in World Cup and Euro tournaments, but said it’s difficult to compare that to the upcoming tournament.

“It’s a tough one,” Henry said. “I’ve played in a lot of tournaments for a long time, but we could go out (of the hotel). We could have a day off, go into town, see people, see our family. You can’t compare it where we’re going to go. Understand me well, I’m not complaining. It’s just difficult to compare.”

The Impact open the group stage against New England on July 9 before playing Toronto FC July 15 and D.C. United July 21. All three games will be televised on TSN and TVA Sports.

phickey@postmedia.com

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