Atlanta's Jeff Larentowicz worries about player safety in Orlando tournament

Atlanta United’s Jeff Larentowicz spoke to the media via Zoom Thursday morning and answered many questions regarding the new collective bargaining agreement and how MLS plans to resume the season in a tournament setting in Orlando, which is scheduled to start in July.

MLS and the Players Association agreed to a new CBA Wednesday but before then, MLS threatened a lockout if the Players Association did not agree to terms by Tuesday. The deadline was then extended to Wednesday, which is when the players voted in favor of the new terms

“I was disgusted when I read the email. I thought it was a bullying tactic. I think it showed incredible understanding and resolve from the players to stand up to that,” Larentowicz said. “To make that threat, on the heels of them asking for collaboration in an open discussion to find a way to get through a difficult time really doesn’t sit well with me at all.”

Larentowicz also mentioned that at the moment, there are still many questions about the Orlando plan but he hopes the league will provide those answers in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday afternoon, Don Garber, MLS Commissioner, said everyone would be tested for COVID-19 before arriving in Orlando and many times while they are there, but for Larentowicz and many other players, the questions go beyond just testing.

“There are so many questions because the list of things: the virus, the testing, return to play, what’s life in the hotel going to be like, when are we going  to leave, how long are we going to be there, how many games are we going to play, when are we going to train, how are we going to train, how are we going to eat, how are we going to be tested, how are we going to be quarantined, how do you deal with players that are quarantined, how do you deal with a test that’s positive after a game, every single level of things has questions that lead to another question,” Larentowicz said. “I can tell you that they are taking 2,000 peoples lives into their hands. They better have it sorted. It’s on them. We are soccer players and we want to play and it’s their job now to keep us safe.”

The midfielder said he expects Atlanta United to arrive in Orlando until July, since the team is one of the firsts to be allowed to start large group training. Other teams will be encouraged to arrive in Orlando on June 24, with matches starting July 9.

Another big question that looms around is how many matches teams will be allowed to play in their home market after the Orlando tournament. Larentowicz said Garber told them that there would only be room for nine matches in the schedule.

“Not sure what he meant by that,” Larentowicz said.

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