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MLS players deal with coronavirus-induced break by social distancing, home workouts, laundry

On a typical Friday morning before a Saturday game, Alejandro Bedoya would be doing pregame things: a light workout, team meetings and getting ready to play the San Jose Earthquakes at Subaru Park. Because of coronavirus, this was not a typical Friday. 

It was Friday, March 13, and the Philadelphia Union captain had plenty of time on his hands.

- Coronavirus cancellations and reactions across sport
- Carlisle: MLS extends training moratorium to May 10
- Karlsen: How clubs are staying sharp during shutdown

"I'm sitting at the dining room table by myself," he said over the phone. "The kids got dropped off at school. My wife went to work out. She asked if I wanted to go to the gym, but if I'm not allowed to train at my facility, maybe I'm not trying to interact with other people right now.

"I wouldn't say it's an off day. I'll probably go for a run around the city later."

Bedoya, along with his teammates, leaguemates and the rest of the world, was attempting to figure out how to manage through the coronavirus pandemic. Major League Soccer had just instituted a team training moratorium that would soon be extended through May 10. Players and coaches took the #StayAtHomeChallenge with Real Salt Lake's Tate Schmitt, Justen Glad and Aaron Herrera and many others juggling rolls of toilet paper.

In Seattle, where the first case of coronavirus was discovered in the United States and where the Sounders announced on March 15 that a member of their support staff member had tested positive, midfielder Cristian Roldan is a social distancing pro. On Tuesday, he played some video games, went golfing -- keeping it to just him and a friend -- went for a run on his own, then hunkered down inside to work out and housekeep. "I'm lucky enough to be able to have a bike at home, and work out there as well with a couple of weights, so I did a little bit of that," he said. "I'm also doing laundry. Just staying on top of the house, really. It's really a time where you can focus on entertaining yourself as well as being sharp and being diligent about all the things going around the house."

While a midseason pause would never be easy, the suspension of the league comes at an especially difficult time for the players. They were only two games into the season, coming off a fitness-building preseason, peaking physically without the wear and tear that builds over the regular season.

"I felt just about 90-minutes fit, and all of the sudden, all your preseason goes to waste," Roldan said. "You find yourself being in an awkward spot. I haven't been in this situation ever in my life. I've always constantly been able to train for games, and now we don't."

Bedoya is keeping his fitness levels up in the gym in his apartment building while waiting for soccer to return.

For Bedoya, the thought process was similar. "My initial thought was, 'Man, this sucks,'" he said. "For us, we just came off a great result from the LAFC game away, which was a great game and a great confidence-booster for us. We were motivated from that game, and these 30 days are definitely going to kill that vibe."

Still, the players understand the reasoning behind the league's decisions. "As young healthy people, we'd likely be able to fight the virus, but other people who might come in contact with it at the game or outside the stadium, gatherings that we're trying to help prevent to prevent the spread," Bedoya said. "It's a public health crisis at this point and it's about containing the spread to other, more vulnerable people."

Sporting Kansas City defender Matt Besler agreed. "It's difficult, and frustrating," he wrote. "But you have to take a step back during a time like this and realize the severity of the situation. We don't have much control on the decisions being made to play or not, so we have to trust the medical experts and follow the guidelines provided. That's about all we can do. None of us have ever been in a situation like this before."

Bedoya's also making the most of time at home with the family despite the uncertainty as to when the MLS season will resume.

Eventually, of course, the games will go on and although players can't train together or use team facilities, they are trying to stay in shape in a formal way. Sporting Kansas City's performance group sent its players training programs based on position groups, a mix of runs and weights. "It's all through a fitness app the team uses so we can receive the workout on our phones and report our times and results," Besler wrote in an email.

Roldan is also working through an individualized program that he got from the Sounders staff. He thought that the next step -- weeks away, at least -- was potentially for players to gather at the training facility in small groups. If so, they'd be able to mimic some game conditions. "If you can get four or five guys, you can really emulate some game movement," he said. "Obviously it's going to be a little different than having a full team because of the space that you'll utilize. Everything will be condensed space, but you can emulate those game-like movements and really focus on practice and individualize the practice, the training sessions."

Whatever happens, it will be a long time before things return to any semblance of normality in MLS and beyond. For now, hanging around is the new normal.

"I'm just sitting here, kind of self-quarantined," Bedoya said. "It feels weird. I know we have days off sometimes in between but this is an odd day off, I can tell you that much."

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