The Pittsburgh Riverhounds earned a 3-1 win in Louisville this past Sunday, played before more than 4,500 fans in the debut match at Lynn Family Stadium.
Preparation for the match was crucial, but so were the guidelines that all teams must follow.
“Everyone wore masks on the bus at all times. They wore masks off the bus at any stop. Everyone had their own hand sanitizer bottle,” head coach Bob Lilley said.
These same protocols were conducted in the locker room and at the hotel. Players were only allowed in certain parts of the building at certain times. When entering and leaving the locker room and hotel, it was all done together.
The experience is much stricter for players. In the past some players have their own routines or spent more time in the trainer’s room than others.
This has all changed.
“We’re trying to do the best we can,” Lilley said. “We didn’t have all the test results when we left for Louisville. That was a bit tricky. You’d like to have all of the results before you travel. Therefore, you know who can play, and if a player tests positive, he can stay home. We finally got the results Saturday night, the night before we played. Fortunately, everything was negative.”
In the Riverhounds’ favor, everyone who made the trip were healthy and dressed to play in the season opener.
What can be difficult is how long the test results take to come back. “The tests are taking three, sometimes four days. There’s a lot of challenges,” Lilley stated. “Throughout the league there are a lot of policies.”
A few weeks ago, prior to the start of the shortened season, the USL put together its Health and Wellness Protocols. In the USL’s Return-To-Play Protocols, there are five elements to help mitigate the risk of COVID-19. The elements are social distancing, personal protective equipment and sanitization, rigorous screening, comprehensive testing regimen and training and education.
After the win against Louisville, Lilley pointed out, “I thought Louisville did a good job. Everything was sealed up for us in our own area. We were the only ones allowed in our locker room, trainer’s room and coach’s office. There was one liaison with a mask and that was it.”
Lilley applauded the effort from the Riverhounds’ medical staff, trainers and doctors from Allegheny Health Network.
All teams are adjusting to this drastic change. Over the course of the season, tests and procedures will become much more routine.
“I’m hopeful we can keep the players safe. So far. so good. We’re one game in.”