Major League Soccer is making a comeback.
For the first time since play was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 12, MLS teams will hit the pitch for official matches beginning July 8 when the MLS is Back Tournament kicks off at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. For a full rundown of tournament details, click here.
As for Sporting Kansas City's reaction to today's momentous news, it's fair to say Manager Peter Vermes and his players are licking their chops. Remarks from Vermes, homegrown forward Daniel Salloi and veteran defender Graham Zusi are below.
On returning to play with a tournament in Orlando:
Peter Vermes: Obviously it’s the best option we have in the short term. As I said from the very beginning, whatever we’ve got to do to play, I’m all for it. I’m excited that we’re getting the chance to play games. If it’s Orlando, let’s go, you know? Let’s get the games on.
Daniel Salloi: It’s just going to be great that we can play games again. If this is the way we’ve got to do it, we’re gonna do it.
Graham Zusi: The most important thing from the league’s side and the players’ side was the safety of everyone involved. I think that we’ve come up with a protocol that ensures everyone’s safety. As far as that goes, I’m pretty happy. It’s a step in the direction that we want to be taking—getting back on the field and playing competitive matches. Hopefully this can lead to completing a regular season as well.
On playing at ESPN Wide World of Sports at Disney World Resort:
Peter Vermes: It’s a very good facility. The fields are always very good. The resources in and around the park are great in regards to goals and all those types of things for training. We’ve played a lot of exhibition games there over the years, as well. It’ll be a good environment and I think the players will be ready to play there.
Graham Zusi: I’ve played at Disney quite a few times. I grew up in Orlando, so a lot of my youth tournaments were out there. I’ve played some preseasons down there with Sporting, as well. I’m very familiar with the surroundings. As a club player, I remember how pristine the fields were. You don’t get that too much as a club player. Any chance you get to play out at Disney is a lot of fun. It’s Disney—they always do everything big and grandiose. It’s fit for hosting a tournament like this.
On the Kansas City heat and humidity preparing the team for Orlando:
Daniel Salloi: For sure, the (weather) will prepare us. It’s going to be very humid once we’re in Orlando. Sometimes it’s very humid in Kansas City, too. We can be ready for this, I think. It helps us a lot. Some teams will experience it in their first game, and that’s going to be tough for them.
Peter Vermes: As long as it keeps getting hot like it is right now and gets hotter, that should only help us get acclimated like we need to. Hopefully it’ll be this way for the next few weeks and we’ll get a good dose of being able to acclimate ourselves to the weather. You don’t want to go down there and just get the uppercut to the jaw when you step out of your car. We’ve got to make sure we’ve done something to get ourselves ready.
Graham Zusi: We’ve got a little bit of a sense already what it’s going to be like down there. I wouldn’t usually say this, but we’re lucky to have the weather that we have right now to prepare us for the heat and humidity of Florida. I think that we’ll be one of the few teams that gets a sense of it before we’re down there.
On Sporting's mindset going into the tournament:
Peter Vermes: It’s games for us. The whole idea is that we’ve got to get ready to perform and try to do the best we can to prepare ourselves. We’ve got to win them. At the same time, it’s not something we’ve dealt with before. We’re already a part of history in regards to this, so let’s take advantage of it if we can.
Graham Zusi: We’re competitive guys. The reason we play this game is to compete and to win. We haven’t been able to do that for some time now, so the fact that we’re going to get back down there and compete and play the game we love is everything.
Daniel Salloi: We’re just looking forward to playing games again, honestly—being able to play the game we love. I hope this Orlando (tournament) goes well and then we can start playing in stadiums.