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FC Dallas withdraws from MLS is Back
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FC Dallas withdrawn from MLS is Back tourney; Vela to sit out

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Carlos Vela’s decision to sit out the MLS is Back tournament has been one-upped by reports that MLS has pulled an entire team out of the fray in Florida.

Vela, considered by many to be the league’s top player, is opting out of representing LAFC and choosing to spend time with his pregnant wife and children.

The Mexican star, 31, said he would love to play but the coronavirus pandemic means missing out is in “the best interest of the health of my family to stay home and be with my wife during what is a risky pregnancy.”

[ MORE: Mourinho, Lloris react to Son spat ]

LAFC released a statement supporting Vela’s “difficult decision,” which will not help the West’s top side in its bid to outlast the Galaxy, Houston, and Portland in Group F, should the tournament go forward as planned.

Meanwhile, FC Dallas’ bad month has gotten much worse. Six players reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 last week and reports grew to include 10 players and one coach.

The side’s opening match against Vancouver was postponed on Saturday. Now FC Dallas says it is supporting an MLS decision to take the team out of the tournament. FC Dallas says it will take every precaution to make sure its return to Texas “minimizes risk of exposure to all parties involved.”

Dallas was drawn into Group B with Seattle, Vancouver, and San Jose. Two of the teams were set to advance to the knockout rounds.

Here is MLS’ statement on FC Dallas’ withdrawal:

“Major League Soccer announced today that FC Dallas have been withdrawn from the MLS is Back Tournament due to 10 players and one member of the technical staff confirmed positive for COVID-19. Each of these positive tests either occurred upon the club’s arrival or within a few days of arrival. The decision was made in the best interest of the health of all players and staff participating in the tournament, and in line with protocols created in conjunction with local and national health authorities and infectious disease experts.
“’Given the impact of the number of positive tests on the club’s ability to train and play competitive matches, we have made the decision to withdraw FC Dallas from the MLS is Back Tournament,’ said MLS Commissioner Don Garber. ‘The health of everyone involved in our return to play has always been our top priority, and we will continue to make decisions consistent with that priority.’
Of the 557 players currently in Orlando, Fla. 13 total players have been confirmed positive for COVID-19, 10 of those being FC Dallas players and the remaining three from two other clubs.”

Six FC Dallas players test positive for COVID-19 in Florida

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Six players with FC Dallas have tested positive for COVID-19 and the entire team has been quarantined ahead of the MLS Is Back tournament.

The club confirmed in a statement Wednesday that the players tested positive upon arrival in Florida for the month-long tournament starting next week.

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The team said all players and staff tested negative for coronavirus before leaving for the tournament on Saturday. Upon arrival, two players tested positive. Four more positive tests were uncovered in subsequent testing.

“In consultation with MLS medical officials, FC Dallas took proactive steps to isolate the newly affected players as well as all FC Dallas players and staff in Orlando out of an abundance of caution. All members of the club delegation are following MLS health and safety protocols and will remain quarantined in their hotel rooms pending the results of further COVID-19 testing,” the team said in a statement.

The names of the players were not released.

The league said that no other team has been in contact with the FC Dallas delegation since its arrival.

All of the league’s 26 teams are sequestered in hotels in advance of the tournament played without fans at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex at Disney World. The tournament opens Wednesday.

MLS shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 12, after the league’s teams had played two games.

The league said on Sunday that 18 players and six staff members had tested positive for the virus before teams departed for Orlando.

League protocol requires players and staff to be tested every two days upon arrival in Florida. Teams began traveling last week in advance of the tournament.

FC Dallas is scheduled to open the tournament with a group stage match against the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 9.

FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez suspended amid abuse claims

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FRISCO, Texas — MLS suspended FC Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez on Friday amid allegations of domestic abuse.

[ MORE: MLS agree to return ]

The league said the decision came after a report of alleged incidents of abuse made to police in Frisco, the Dallas suburb that is home to the soccer club. Frisco police didn’t immediately respond to a request for documents.

MLS said Gonzalez voluntarily entered the league’s program for substance abuse and behavioral health. He won’t be eligible to return until he is cleared by doctors in that program and the league has finished its investigation.

The 25-year-old Gonzalez has been the primary starter for FC Dallas since 2017 and had a career-high 84 saves in the regular season last year. FC Dallas lost to Seattle 4-3 in the first round of the playoffs.

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Gonzalez, who grew up in Dallas and was one of the club’s homegrown players, made his 100th career start in this year’s season opener. He was in goal again for the second game before the season was suspended because of the pandemic.

The league said it was in “close communication” with FC Dallas and law enforcement officials. The team said it learned of allegations against Jesse Gonzalez this week.

“FC Dallas takes these matters extremely seriously and fully supports the league’s swift action to suspend the player while an investigation takes place,” the team said. “We continue to work closely with Major League Soccer regarding this.”

Gonzalez made his first appearance with the FC Dallas youth academy as a 15-year-old in 2010. Five years later, he became the youngest starting keeper in franchise history at 20 years, 89 days.

COVID-19 season suspensions leave questions for transfer targets

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When USMNT fullback Reggie Cannon signed a new deal with FC Dallas, both sides knew the 21-year-old was not long for Texas.

But suspended seasons in Europe raise questions as to when the transfer window will open this summer.

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Speaking in a conference call, Cannon said “the goal was to be transferred this summer” but that he’s focused on the more serious health issues caused by the coronavirus suspensions.

“Regardless of if it happens [this summer] or not, I don’t think it’ll hinder my career at all,” Cannon said. “It’s God’s timing, I have to trust in him and have faith, which I do. At the end of the day, I know my future is over there, whenever that may be. I just have to be patient and kill it at FC Dallas. Dallas is my priority and what I care for right now. That future is great and I’m looking for it, but right now I have to give 100 percent to Dallas.”

Cannon has 11 caps for the USMNT and 72 first-team appearances for FC Dallas. He turns 22 on June 11, the same age as DeAndre Yedlin when the Seattle Sounders man headed abroad.

For every up-and-coming player looking to get into a top league in Europe, there are a bevy of installed talents hoping to keep their spot.

Bournemouth captain Simon Francis wants to keep the Cherries in the top flight, and says he’s got something to prove before becoming a free agent this summer. From The Bournemouth Daily Echo, citing The Sun:

“We have nine games left and if in those matches I need to prove that I can still cut it at this level, then so be it.”

Francis’ contract expires June 30, but he’s not just curious about his own deal. Bournemouth is in a relegation fight, and what happens with guys like him, Charlie Daniels, Andrew Surman, and star winger Ryan Fraser.

“Would you sign a short-term contract with the club you are currently at and commit your short-term future? Or do you think, ‘No, this club wants me for next season, I’ll hold off’? … If the season does go beyond June 30, we are going to need Ryan (Fraser) because he would play a massive part in our fight to stay up.”

Finishing European seasons by June 30 would still be likely if the league kicks back into action at the end of April. We’ll see what it means for hundreds of players if the calendar turns to July.

Ferreira approved for USMNT, will start versus Costa Rica

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FC Dallas striker has opted to represent the United States men’s national team, and has been cleared to make his senior debut in Saturday’s friendly versus Costa Rica.

The team announced Friday that the teenage Colombian-American will start versus Los Ticos.

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It’s an almost exclusively MLS squad for the match, and Ferreira is one of the more intriguing names on the roster.

Ferreira turned 19 on Christmas Eve, and already has nine goals and six assists in 38 appearances for Dallas’ senior side. He’s also scored six times with two assists in 14 USL appearances for FC Tulsa.

From USSoccer.com:

“I had a long conversation with my family, asking what they thought I should do. We all came to a conclusion that the U.S. has been following me for a while, they’ve seen me, this is where I’ve been playing for a lot of my years. That led towards my final decision to play for the U.S., that they always had me in their thoughts, even when unfortunately, I couldn’t play.”

Ferreira’s father, David, was the 2010 MLS MVP and earned 38 caps representing Los Cafeteros of Colombia. He won the Copa America in 2001.

USMNT boss Gregg Berhalter announced another starter versus Costa Rica, saying Sean Johnson gets the nod at goalkeeper.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up versus Costa Rica? ]

Watch our transfer deadline day show from 6-8 p.m. ET on Jan. 31, live on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com.