Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney and GM Ali Curtis sat down for a brainstorming session at the MLS is Back Tournament in Florida, wondering about possible places to play if the Canadian border remained closed.
Curtis, a native of Ann Arbor, was thinking of possibilities in Michigan. Vanney offered up Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn., having played there with the U.S. national team.
It's also familiar ground for team president Bill Manning, a native of Massapequa, N.Y., who played soccer at the University of Bridgeport — 80 kilometres from East Hartford.
Plus, it is neutral ground close to Eastern Conference opposition.
"Great stadium ... It's a nice setup. The field is great," Vanney said of the 38,000-seat facility. "I would imagine nobody's been using it. UConn's football team is usually who plays out of there but they're not playing.
"We have people on the ground there who went and checked it and they said it's nice. And we have been in communication with their people about the size and the cut (of the grass) and all that for it be as similar to what we have here."
So far only three games per team have been announced in the next phase of the MLS's pandemic-rejigged schedule.
Toronto (6-2-3) is scheduled to leave Friday evening for Washington and a game Saturday against D.C. United (2-5-4). Then TFC meets New York City FC on Sept. 23 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., before "hosting" Columbus Crew SC in East Hartford on Sept 27.
After the D.C. game, Toronto will head to East Hartford where it has a training field and accommodation already set up. The team will train there, head to New Jersey for the NYCFC game and then return to Hartford.
Toronto's travelling party will fly north after the Columbus game and spend a few days with family under quarantine before returning south of the border for the next phase of the schedule.
Vanney says the team won't have to undergo a 14-day quarantine because they aren't staying in Canada.
"We would be quarantined for two days and then on a plane flying back to Hartford to then train and then play the next games," Vanney said. "So whatever days we are in Toronto, we would actually be quarantined. So I think this week is really our last week of training in Toronto.
"Everything else we will do will be away from home ... It's not ideal but that's the way it is right now for us."
Toronto will remain in the U.S. for that next stretch of games, with Hartford as its hub.
Vancouver and Montreal also face "home" games at U.S. sites during their three-game run.
The Impact will entertain the Philadelphia Union on Sept. 20 at Red Bull Arena while the Vancouver Whitecaps will "host" the Timbers at Providence Park in Portland on Sept. 27.
The Whitecaps, who face visiting Montreal on Wednesday in the final leg of the all-Canadian portion of the schedule, will play at Real Salt Lake on Sept. 19 and at Los Angeles FC on Sept. 3 before heading to Portland.
The Whitecaps will play in Utah, then set up a home base in Portland and travel to California to play Los Angeles FC.
The club is still in discussions with health officials and the Canadian government about options for after the game against Portland.
Montreal will play in New England on Sept. 23 and then return to Red Bull Arena to face the Red Bulls on Sept. 27.
Vanney says captain Michael Bradley, who is nursing a knee injury, likely won't make the initial trip south of the border but could fly in to Hartford for the third game depending on how the knee responds.
Vanney says Toronto has an option for next year on new loan signing Tony Gallacher from Liverpool. The 21-year-old from Glasgow will provide cover for Justin Morrow at left back.
TFC was thin at fullback with only Morrow, Canadian Richie Laryea and Brazil's Auro Jr.
"Three guys for two spots and with games happening every three to four days, we just felt we needed another option," said Vanney who sees 21-year-old Griffin Dorsey as one for the future. "It gives us a chance to look at (Gallacher) on loan and see how he does, with an option into next year if he does well and we like what he brings to the table.
"He's a good kid, he works hard and he's a good soccer player. He has a good sense of what we do because it's not miles off what he was doing there (in the Liverpool system). We're excited about the opportunity to add him to the group."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2020.
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