Pretty much since news broke that 11 players were in health and safety protocols, Philadelphia Union fans starting calling on Major League Soccer to postpone the Eastern Conference final the Union ended up losing with a shorthanded squad.
That angst over the match being played hasn’t been aided by news of a Tottenham Europa Conference League match vs Rennes being called off for Covid-19 cases in the Hotspurs camp. Fans have also pointed out to other cases of matches being rescheduled in other sports leagues because of Covid-19 outbreaks but according to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer that was never on the table for Sunday’s game.
MLS executive vice president of communications Dan Courtemanche told The Inquirer that postponing the match “a day or even a few days was not considered, as nearly every Union player in the health and safety protocol would remain unavailable to play.”
Six regular starters and five other players were ruled out of the match because of Covid-19 health and safety protocols, which can be triggered either by a positive test, behavior considered high-risk or close exposure to an infected individual.
After the 2-1 loss, head coach Jim Curtin said the players who were kept out were healthy and that they were in protocols for “some version of the sniffles,” an account Courtemanche pushed back on in his interview with Inquirer reporter Jonathan Tannenwald.
“I can assure you that no Union players were in the MLS health and safety protocol due to a case of the sniffles,” Courtemanche was quoted by Tannenwald saying.
Despite the absences, Curtin still was able to put together a full game day squad that included the MLS pool keeper Greg Ranjitsingh backing up starter Matt Freese along with Anton Sorenson and Brandan Craig from Union 2 to fill out the bench.
The team he fielded pushed NYCFC to the brink after taking a lead on an own goal in the 63rd minute but New York City was able to come back with a pair of goals in the last 25 minutes to book their first spot in an MLS Cup final instead. The final will be played Saturday in Portland.