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TFC coach Chris Armas enthusiastic about 1st training camp with club

Intensity and energy were the buzzwords Wednesday as the Chris Armas era kicked off at Toronto FC.

The club is the first in Major League Soccer to open training camp, given a little extra time to prepare for the Canadian Championship final against Forge FC. That will decide which team faces Mexico’s Club Leon in the round-of-16 of the Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League on April 6-7.

Most other MLS clubs report March 1 for a seven-day quarantine period, medicals and testing prior to the start of team training March 8. The regular season is scheduled to start April 17.

TFC worked out under the bubble at its north Toronto training centre Wednesday, with the temperature outside at minus-5 C, said to feel like minus-11. Light snow is forecast for Thursday.

Armas somehow managed to exude enthusiasm, even with his face hidden by a mask on a video call with reporters. At first blush, the 48-year-old head coach comes across as an Energizer Bunny-type man with a plan — even in the complicated, ever-changing sands of a global pandemic.

“This time of year, pre-season, it doesn’t get old to me,” he said. “It’s just such a great time.”

Armas said there was plenty of energy on display, even in a video session. Players told him the training session, on a scale of one to 10 for intensity, was a 25, he said.

“What a good first day with these players,” he said.

Where’s home?

Captain Michael Bradley was equally positive.

“It was an exciting first day because we hit the ground running,” he said.

“Chris has come in with his staff and, I think, has set an incredible tone right away in terms of who he is, what he’s all about, the energy that he’s going to bring every day, the mentality, and now starting to get to work with what we’re going to be as a team,” he added.

There is still no word on where Toronto will play its home games, given the pandemic-related travel restrictions that forced it to finish out the 2020 campaign in East Hartford, Conn.

WATCH | Canada’s Davies nets tying goal in Bayern Munich draw: 

Canadian Alphonso Davies scored to pull Bayern even with Arminia at 3-3. 1:06

Florida appears to be leading the pack.

“There’s options. We’re prepared mentally and physically that we might have to set up shop in the States,” said Armas, a former New York Red Bulls head coach.

Armas said there’s a “good chance” that the team will stay in Toronto for the duration of camp. He acknowledged that will present a problem finding pre-season opposition, with a friendly against CF Montreal a possibility.

‘No excuses’

The date and location of the Canadian Championship final have yet to be announced, with mid- to late-March expected.

Even if the team has to move again during the pandemic, Bradley said there will be no excuses.

“It’s been tough for everyone, man. I don’t want to hear that it’s tougher for me or tougher for TFC or tougher for Canadian teams,” he said.

Toronto is coming off a 13-5-5 season that saw the team finish second overall despite having playing just four games at BMO Field due to the pandemic. Its season ended disappointingly in a first-round playoff loss to expansion Nashville SC.

Armas promises to field a team capable of pressing the opposition when they have the ball, one that demonstrates “a commitment and a hunger up the field to not allow teams to build attacks.”

WATCH | Canada’s new women’s soccer team coach discusses her role: 

The new coach of Canada’s women’s soccer team, Bev Priestman, talks about her new job while preparing her team for the SheBelieves Cup. 2:26

The goal is to force mistakes “and take advantage of what we know, which is goals come from transition. More than 50 per cent, 60-something per cent of all goals come from transition.”

In possession, TFC will look to move the ball quickly and break down the opposition.

Armas was named the franchise’s 10th head coach on Jan. 13, filling the void left by Greg Vanney’s resignation. Vanney is now running the Los Angeles Galaxy, taking assistant coaches Dan Calichman, Nick Theslof and Canadian Jason Bent with him.

Armas announced his coaching staff, with goalkeeper coach Jon Conway the lone holdover. He is joined by newcomers Javier Perez, Ian Russell and Ewan Sharp.

Altidore transfer interest 

With camp closed due to COVID-19, information is in short supply. The team has yet to provide a camp roster and Armas said while everyone was in town, not everyone had made it through quarantine, medicals or testing yet.

“We’re almost at full strength,” he said.

Forward Ayo Akinola, who missed a Canada camp in January with an undisclosed injury, is not yet ready to go, however.

As for the future of star striker Jozy Altidore, who has been the subject of transfer interest according to U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter, Armas said he look forwards to working with him once he completes the necessary pre-camp routine.

WATCH | Canada set to face rival U.S. on Thursday at SheBelieves Cup: 

The new coach of Canada’s national women’s soccer team says that pride is on the line as they prepare to meet the United States at the SheBelieves Cup on Thursday night. 0:58

“I think we all know that he’s helped build this house. He’s been a really important guy around here,” Armas said. “The passion that he brings.

“Some guys are just winners and he’s a guy that your chances go up when he’s out there.”

Armas said Altidore had sounded enthusiastic in a text exchange about the team’s planned pressing style.

Armas confirmed that veteran fullback Justin Morrow, whose contract expired at the end of last season, is expected back. Defender Eriq Zavaleta, also out of contract, is training with the team.

Armas, who won 66 caps for the U.S. as a defensive midfielder and was named to the MLS Best XI five times, said his family will remain in Long Island, N.Y., for the time being, with the eldest of his two sons currently in college.

“They’ll join me here soon enough. We’ll just have to see what the year brings.”

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CBC | Soccer News

Inside the Canadian women’s basketball team’s virtual training camp

It was exactly 367 days ago when Canada’s women’s basketball team qualified for Tokyo 2020.

Fast-forward to today, and the team is coming off a week-long virtual training camp, unable to meet in person due to the pandemic that forced the one-year postponement of the Olympics.

“That was sort of like the last big thing before the wheels fell off, and you think back to your mindset and just how everything felt at that point in time in Belgium: living the life, competing, playing against the best in the world, winning games, qualifying for [the] Tokyo Olympics, doing it all together. We were on top of the world,” head coach Lisa Thomaidis said of the Olympic qualifying tournament played last February.

“And then, you know, a few short weeks later, just how everything came crashing down.”

Training camp kicked off first thing Monday with words from Canadian chef de mission Marnie McBean, who reassured the team that Tokyo 2020 would indeed be going ahead in 2021.

McBean advised the team to block out reports that may arise in the coming months, such as the single-source story from the Times of London in late January that claimed the Japanese government had concluded to cancel the 2021 Games.

“It was good timing because it had come out [two] week[s] prior to us getting together. And so for her to come on the Monday morning and just be kind of like, ‘OK, this is what’s really happening,’ it was good just to kind of get rid of the elephant in the room,” Thomaidis said.

McBean’s insistence set the tone for a week of daily two-hour meetings covering everything from team vision to Olympic logistics to Tokyo heat.

“[We] went through a lot of envisioning and projecting what it’s going to be like in Tokyo, the conditions, the living arrangements, our competition schedule or training schedule leading into it,” Thomaidis said.

Those exercises helped put players’ minds at ease about attending the Olympics during a pandemic — not that there was much hesitance after already waiting this long to compete.

Forward Ruth Hamblin said it was important to hear assurance from McBean when she sees so much negativity surrounding the Olympics every day on Twitter.

“I feel like this meeting just kind of solidified what we have as a team and our system and our momentum. It’s going to be different, but it’s still an Olympics. I think that that doesn’t change. And if anything, it’s more than ever because the world needs some positivity,” said Hamblin, who currently plays in Poland.

Social activity welcomed

With questions surrounding the Olympics sorted, Thomaidis began instilling some of the team’s on-court systems. It’s tough to implement anything too complicated over Zoom, but some base principles helped sharpen how the team will attempt Canada’s first-ever Olympic women’s basketball medal.

After so much time apart, the social aspect of the week was also welcome to both coach and players alike.

Some meetings included games with quiz software Kahoot, and another ice-breaker matching Emojis to different players kicked off each day’s festivities.

“It’s just good old times, like the familiarity with these people because we spent so much time together. It’s really good to just hang out with them,” Hamblin said.

“I think more than anything, it was just that the energy that they came to the meetings with was pretty cool. People are tuning in from all around the world,” Thomaidis reiterated.

The team will continue to meet regularly over Zoom, likely every three or four weeks with frequency increasing as the Olympics approach.

Next opportunity to meet in May

While some other teams, including the U.S., were able to meet in person during the international window, Canada was stuck online with players dispersed throughout the U.S., France, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and Germany.

Forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, who plays for Lyon in France, thinks that could work in Canada’s favour.

“I don’t think anyone expects us to get together two hours every day and watch film together and have a virtual reality. And I’m just really happy that we’re doing these things that can gain us a competitive edge over some of the other countries,” she said.

Canada’s next opportunity to meet in person is in May, when the team hopes to hold training camp in Edmonton ahead of the FIBA AmeriCup in June.

Overseas pro leagues will be done by then, meaning the logistics of gathering could be simplified. Then again, planning in a pandemic is fluid.

“I think it’s going to be one of the strangest Olympics ever,” Hamblin said. “And our ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances is going to be a key to our success.”

A basketball team going over a year without practice ahead of its biggest tournament certainly qualifies as strange. But from all corners of the world, Team Canada appears to be adjusting well.

And after the long period of inactivity, that competitive fire only burns brighter.

“We’re a basketball team, we just want to go and compete. I think everyone’s just finally looking forward to that. So, yeah, definitely some excitement building,” Thomaidis said.

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CBC | Sports News

Quebec promises diversity training for health-care workers in wake of Joyce Echaquan’s death

A little less than a month after taking over as Quebec’s Indigenous affairs minister, Ian Lafrenière has announced a $ 15-million plan to teach health-care workers how to better provide services to members of Indigenous communities — with an emphasis on cultural safety.

That means providing care in accordance with Indigenous norms and traditions.

The announcement is a direct response to the death this fall of a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman at a hospital in Joliette, Que., a town about an hour north of Montreal.

In late September, Joyce Echaquan did a Facebook live of her treament in her hospital room shortly before her death. Viewers could hear her pleas and the staff’s response: degrading and racist insults.

The exact cause of her death is still not known.

Lafrenière was accompanied by Health Minister Christian Dubé as he told reporters the government wants to remove barriers for Indigenous communities in the health and social services network. 

“We would like to regain trust from different nations,” Lafrenière said.

Echaquan’s death sparked protests, a public inquiry and a public apology from Quebec Premier François Legault at the National Assembly.

WATCH | Lafrenière says Quebec’s efforts are not just about ‘image making’:

Ian Lafrenière, Quebec’s new minister of Indigenous affairs, says the province is “talking about facts” and not just concerned with “image making.” 0:49

Cultural safety was a key component in the Viens Commission’s 142 recommendations, which documented the discrimination Indigenous people face when receiving public services.

The cultural-safety training is expected to be rolled out gradually, starting with hospitals that take in more Indigenous patients — such as Joliette Hospital where Echaquan died  — before eventually being implemented across the province.

A team at l’Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue developed the training guide, and Indigenous community leaders will have a chance to weigh in on its contents.

“There are many subtleties that we need to have in the training and this is the reason we want to involve them,” Dubé said.

The province will also hire liaison agents and health-care “navigators” who will serve as go-betweens for hospitals and members of Indigenous communities, with the navigators expected to come from Indigenous communities.

“Today, this is not image making, this is facts,” said Lafrenière. “We’re not telling you it’s going to be done within a week. It’s going to be a long process.”

Joyce Echaquan’s mother is seen at a vigil after hear death at the Joliette, Que., hospital. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

‘This is one announcement, this is not the last one’

The $ 15-million investment is part of a $ 200-million envelope set aside by the CAQ government in its latest budget.

It’s also Lafrenière’s first major move since replacing Sylvie D’Amours as the Indigenous affairs minister.

“This is one announcement, this is not the last one,” he said. “Let’s hope for the future, work for the future.”

His appointment last month raised eyebrows and drew criticism, due to his history as a high-ranking Montreal police officer. Indigenous communities have said their relationship with Montreal police is a tense one.

Lafrenière promised swift action, and claimed his experience with the SPVM was an asset in his new role, not a liability.

Following Echaquan’s death, voices calling for the CAQ government to recognize systemic racism grew louder, but Legault and Lafrenière, have both denied it exists in the province.

WATCH | Legault apologizes following Joyce Echaquan’s death

François Legault said the Quebec government has a duty to treat everyone with dignity and respect. He said Quebec failed that duty by allowing Joyce Echaquan to die amid racist taunts. 1:05

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CBC | Health News

What you need to know as NHL training camps open

This is an excerpt from The Buzzer, which is CBC Sports’ daily email newsletter. Stay up to speed on what’s happening in sports by subscribing here.

Here’s what you need to know right now from the world of sports:

NHL training camps are open

The league and the players finally finalized their return-to-play deal and a new collective bargaining agreement on Friday night. That cleared the way for all 24 teams involved in this year’s expanded playoff competition to open camps today in their home cities. Six of the seven Canadian teams qualified (Ottawa is the only one out) and you can read a quick catchup on each of them here.

The Pittsburgh Penguins already experienced a hiccup at their camp. They held out nine unidentified players today because they may have been exposed to someone who had contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19. The players will be sidelined until test results show it’s safe for them to return.

At the Toronto Maple Leafs’ camp, Auston Matthews confirmed that, as reported, he tested positive for COVID-19 last month. The star forward said today that he was “pretty much asymptomatic” at the time, but having to take a few weeks off the ice set him back a bit physically.

Today is also the deadline for players to opt out of the restart. Anyone may do this for any reason, without punishment (though they won’t get paid for the games they miss). So far, six players have exercised this right: Calgary’s Travis Hamonic, Vancouver’s Sven Baertschi, Montreal’s Karl Alzner, Edmonton’s Mike Green, Dallas’ Roman Polak and Boston’s Steven Kampfer. Montreal’s Max Domi, who has Type 1 diabetes and celiac disease, is considering opting out. The Canadians agreed to give him an extra week or so to decide.

Other key things to know about the NHL restart:

The timeline: Training camps run until July 26, when teams will travel to their designated hub city (Edmonton for the Western Conference, Toronto for the East). Exhibition games will be played July 28-30. The first phase of the playoffs begins Aug. 1. The standard 16-team playoff tournament opens Aug. 11. The Stanley Cup final is tentatively slated to start Sept. 22 and end by Oct. 4 at the latest. Free agency will open a week after the Cup is awarded. The draft will be held in between. Training camps for the 2020-21 season will open in mid-November, and Dec. 1 is the target date for the start of the regular season. 

How the playoffs work: The first phase is the so-called Stanley Cup Qualifiers. There are two parts to this. One is the “qualifying round.” Here, teams seeded 5th to 12th in their conferences are matched up in best-of-five series to decide who advances to the standard 16-team playoff tournament. The Western matchups are (5) Edmonton vs. (12) Chicago, (6) Nashville vs. (11) Arizona, (7) Vancouver vs. (10) Minnesota, and (8) Calgary vs. (9) Winnipeg. The Eastern matchups are (5) Pittsburgh vs. (12) Montreal, (6) Carolina vs. (11) New York Rangers, (7) New York Islanders vs. (10) Florida, and (8) Toronto vs. (9) Columbus. The other part of the Stanley Cup Qualifiers is a round robin for the top four teams in each conference. That’s St. Louis, Colorado, Vegas and Dallas in the West, and Boston, Tampa Bay, Washington and Philadelphia in the East. So that’s three games for each team. They all advance, with their round-robin records determining how they’re seeded for the 16-team tournament (1 through 4). The conference finals and the Stanley Cup final will all be held in Edmonton.

The schedule: It’s pretty wild at the start. Games for the Stanley Cup Qualifiers phase are staggered so that the ones in Toronto start at noon, 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET, and the ones in Edmonton start at 2:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. ET. To make sure the games don’t overlap too much, the NHL said it may fluctuate the Edmonton times by up to 30 minutes. So, for better or worse, you’ll have the opportunity to watch upwards of 13 consecutive hours of hockey a day. Read more about the NHL’s return-to-play deal here.

WATCH | How safe are hub city bubbles? 

As NHL hub cities Edmonton and Toronto prepare to host hundreds of players practising for the resumption of the season, there are concerns that “bubble” preparations don’t go far enough to prevent COVID-19. 2:05

The Washington NFL team is getting a new name

Ten days ago, facing renewed pressure (including from a major sponsor) to stop using a name that many find offensive to Indigenous people, the franchise said it would “undergo a thorough review of the team’s name.” Today, Washington announced in a press release that it “will be retiring the Redskins name and logo upon completion of this review.”

Team owner Dan Snyder and head coach Ron Rivera are “working closely to develop a new name and design approach,” according to the release. But it didn’t say how long this might take. Reportedly, the team is still working to secure trademarks. So, for now, the controversial name remains in place. NFL training camps are set to open in about two weeks.

Washington’s announcement could turn up the heat on other sports teams with Indigenous names. The Cleveland Indians and the Edmonton Eskimos both said over the last 10 days that they’re reconsidering their names. The Chicago Blackhawks and the Atlanta Braves have both indicated they’ll keep theirs. Read more about Washington’s decision to (eventually) drop its name here.


The Blue Jays will honour the late Tony Fernandez this season. They’ll wear a patch on their jerseys with Fernandez’s No. 1 on it. The Jays’ all-time leader in games played and hits, and a member of the 1993 World Series championship team, Fernandez died in February at the age of 57 after battling kidney problems. Read more about the Jays’ tribute to him here.

After two postponements, Toronto FC finally played its opener at the MLS is Back Tournament. Originally, Toronto was supposed to face D.C. United last Friday night. But the match was moved to Sunday morning after TFC’s arrival at Disney World was delayed because someone in its travelling party showed COVID-19 symptoms, meaning more testing had to be done. Then the match was called off minutes before kickoff Sunday because of a positive test for a D.C. player and an inconclusive result for a TFC player. They finally played it this morning, and it ended in a 2-2 draw. Toronto’s next match, vs. the Montreal Impact, was pushed back from Wednesday to Thursday night. Read more about today’s draw vs. D.C. and watch highlights here

Manchester City got its Champions League ban overturned. The English powerhouse was suspended from soccer’s most prestigious and lucrative club competition for two years back in February for violating UEFA’s so-called Financial Fair Play regulations. These are designed, in part, to keep deep-pocketed owners (Man City’s is a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family) from spending wildly on player salaries to buy themselves a championship. A team’s payroll has to be in line with the revenue it actually brings in. One of the allegations was that Man City overstated its sponsorship deals, some of which were linked to state-backed companies in Abu Dhabi. But the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld Man City’s appeal today, clearing it to play in the Champions League next season, which is when the ban would have started (Man City is still alive in this year’s competition, which resumes in August). The court did, however, fine the team 10 million euro ($ 11.3 million US) for not co-operating with investigators. Read more about the case and today’s decision here.

ESPN suspended its top NBA reporter. Adrian Wojnarowski, who’s known as the top news-breaker in the sport, was reportedly banned for two weeks without pay for emailing “F— you” (he wrote the actual word) to Josh Hawley, a U.S. Senator from Missouri. This was in response to Hawley’s writing an open letter to NBA commissioner Adam Silver in which he criticized the league for allowing players to put anti-racism and other social-justice messages on their jerseys, but not ones supporting law enforcement or the protests in Hong Kong against the ruling Chinese government (the NBA has lucrative business ties to China). In what will be his last tweet for a couple of weeks, Woj apologized for his email and called it “disrespectful.” Several players, including LeBron James and Canadian Jamal Murray, expressed their support for the reporter by tweeting “#FreeWoj”.

And in case you missed it…

Moh Ahmed broke the Canadian record in the 5,000 metres again. The 29-year-old from St. Catharines, Ont., won a race in Portland, Oregon on Friday night in 12 minutes 47.20 seconds. That time lowered the national record he set last summer by about six seconds and also made him the 10th-fastest 5,000m runner of all time. Everyone else in the top 15 represented either Ethiopia or Kenya. Ahmed was born in Somalia and moved to Canada when he was 11. Last fall, he became the first Canadian to win a medal in the 5,000 at the world championships when he took bronze in Doha. He barely missed the Olympic podium in 2016, finishing fourth. Read more about Ahmed’s latest record-breaking run here.

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CBC | Sports News

Blue Jays training camp to be held in Toronto

The Toronto Blue Jays will be facing a unique situation when they open their summer training camp this weekend.

As the lone MLB team north of the Canada-U.S. border, they’ll have some added rules to follow — like self-isolating in the hotel when not at the field and being separated from family — to keep themselves and the general public safe amid the pandemic.

The Blue Jays had to ask for special permission from the Canadian government to use their Toronto stadium and were given the OK Thursday for training purposes only. A decision is still to be made on whether Toronto can host its home games during the regular season.

Team president Mark Shapiro says his players know what’s at stake with coming into Canada.

“We did not unilaterally make the decision, we made the decision with them,” Shapiro said on a conference call with reporters Thursday night. “Part of the understanding was that it was their responsibility to work with us to ensure this works.”

He added: “I think they felt better about the facility here. They felt better about being here, they felt better about the transition into the season, and better about our competitive chances to remain healthy if we were able to train here. So it was collaborative and co-operative from the start and they’ve been educated.”

WATCH | Devin Heroux discusses Jays’ isolation plan ahead of summer training:

CBC Sports’ Devin Heroux outlines the Toronto Blue Jays’ plans to isolate inside the Rogers Centre for summer training, and possibly for home games during the shortened regular season. 2:17

Holding camp in Toronto gets the Blue Jays away from their spring training facility in Florida, a state ravaged by COVID-19 lately.

Florida reported a record-high 10,109 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday. Ontario’s new case total for the same day was 153.

But while training camps are set to begin around the league on Friday, some of the Blue Jays will be slightly delayed.

The team is currently completing intake screening in Dunedin, Fla., and each player needs two negative COVID tests before being cleared to train.

Shapiro said some of his players have already received two negatives and will start practising Friday in a “closed environment” in Dunedin. A private charter flight will leave for Toronto this weekend once more players are cleared, Shapiro added.

Later Thursday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said it would waive the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for MLB on the grounds that the Jays’ plan “offers robust measures to mitigate the risk.”

“Pre- and regular-season games still need to be evaluated,” the agency said in a statement, adding it must approve of any changes to the plan.

Several Blue Jays players and staff tested positive for COVID-19 recently, as have plenty of other athletes over the last few weeks. The Blue Jays also had to shut down their spring training facility on June 19 after a player showed symptoms of the virus.

The plan to train in Toronto required government and public health approval at the municipal, provincial and federal levels. It relies heavily on players and staff isolating from the general public at Rogers Centre and the hotel attached to the stadium.

Teams visiting Toronto would also need to quarantine in the adjoining hotel when not on the field, something Shapiro said he has discussed with the Players Association, which has been “co-operative” with that plan.

WATCH | Toronto poised to host MLB, NHL games:

As professional sports leagues are getting closer to restarting, it’s looking like the city of Toronto will be hosting a lot of games. 3:43

“It’s not much of a hardship for the visiting team,” Shapiro said. “Obviously [it will] be more limiting because the visiting team that comes in will not be allowed to leave the confines. … It’s the same intent of creating a bubble quarantine — charter flight, sterilized bus right to the hotel in the Roger Centre, never leaving that footprint until they’re done playing a three-game series.

“That would be the expectation for the visiting team.”

Toronto Mayor John Tory says he believes the preventative measures in place will help keep residents and players protected.

“I think that’s good for the city, and I think if people want to be critical of that, then so be it,” Tory said Thursday. “You’re going to have people who are subject to a very strict regime as to how they interact with each other, how they don’t interact with the rest of the city, how they are held in a virtual bubble as to where they can be when they’re in Toronto. That will really well protect the other citizens and the players from COVID-19.”

The abbreviated 60-game regular season is slated to start later this month and last 66 days.

Toronto will play the bulk of its schedule (40 games) against fellow AL East teams — 10 games each against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles — and the remaining 20 games against the NL East’s New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Washington Nationals, Miami Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies.

Shapiro said the likeliest option for home games — if they can’t stay in Toronto — would be TD Ballpark in Dunedin. He added that the team will continue to look into alternate plans.

Safety precautions will be taken throughout camp, Shapiro said.

The Blue Jays will not play exhibition games against other teams, but will have intrasquad matchups instead. Players will also work out in smaller groups rather than having 60 players on the field at once.

Modifications have also been made to Rogers Centre in an effort to make physical distancing easier. Players will be spaced out between four locker-room areas, for example, with every other sink taped off in bathrooms.

“This entire plan is not one that would be without any risk — we all understood that coming in, but at the same time, I’m still optimistic,” Shapiro said. “I’m still hopeful. I still feel like the upside of being able to bring the game back provides both the potential lift and distraction and enjoyment.

“And for me, just selfishly being able to see baseball again, see the joy in our players being able to play it again, even in a very different environment with some very different guidelines and parameters. I don’t think we could do it any more safely then we’re doing it.

“So I feel like our players will be of less risk than much of the general population.”

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CBC | Sports News

MLS lifts moratorium, allows full team training

A day after announcing a deal with its players’ association to resume the season with a tournament in Florida, Major League Soccer says teams may resume training.

MLS says each player and staff member must complete two tests for the coronavirus 24 hours apart, 72 hours ahead of the start of training. Every player also must have a test for antibodies and a physical.

Once training starts, players, coaches and some staff must be tested for the virus every other day. An individual who tests positive would be isolated, tested again at least 24 hours later, and all close contacts would be tested. High-risk individuals must be cleared to participate by the team’s chief medical officer in consultation with the MLS medical staff.

Testing for antibodies will take place every three months. Testing providers must be authorized by the FDA or Health Canada.

WATCH | MLS players ratify new agreement, return-to-play plan:

MLS players have ratified a new collective bargaining agreement that includes a return to play plan. 1:25

Training rooms and gyms will be restricted to a maximum five people, and lockers should be spaced a minimum 10 feet apart. Doors should be left open.

Food is restricted to individual, prepackaged meals and individually wrapped utensils, and 10 feet of distancing is necessary while eating.

Staff is to use appropriate personal protective equipment.

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CBC | Soccer News

Toronto FC to start small group training sessions Monday

Toronto FC plans to up its training on Monday, going from individual workouts to small group sessions.

Major League Soccer, which suspended play on March 12 due to the global pandemic, announced Friday that teams had the green light to start voluntary small group training providing their plans are approved by the league and don’t conflict with local heath or government policies.

Atlanta United and Sporting Kansas City also plan to begin small group training sessions Monday.

Individual outdoor player workouts at team training centres have been allowed since May 6.

It took some clubs longer than others to get the necessary approval for the individual training, with Montreal, Chicago Fire FC, the New York Red Bulls, New York City FC and D.C. United not getting the green light until last week.

The San Jose Earthquakes have yet to resume training.

The league is reportedly looking at resuming play later this summer in one hub, possibly the Orlando area.

Players must physically distance

MLS says players will maintain physical distancing protocols in the small group training. The protocol calls for a maximum of six players in a group, with physical distancing rules coming into play.

Clubs can divide each full field into two halves, assigning a group of players to each segment. Each half-field can be split up into six zones, spaced at least 10 feet (three metres) apart. Only one player may be in a zone at any given time.

Players can pass the ball and shoot on goal within a group, providing they maintain physical distancing.

Other rules include barring goalkeepers from spitting on their gloves, which must be sanitized after each training.

The training sessions remain closed.

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CBC | Soccer News

MLS says players can begin small group training sessions

Major League Soccer is moving ahead with small group training sessions, providing they are not in conflict with local health or government policies.

The 26-team league, which suspended play on March 12 due to the global pandemic, allowed individual outdoor player workouts at team training centres as of May 6.

It has taken some clubs longer than others to get the necessary approval for the individual training, with Montreal, the New York Red Bulls, New York City FC and D.C. United not getting the green light until this week.

Chicago Fire FC and San Jose Earthquakes have yet to begin their individual workouts.

Vancouver Whitecaps sporting director Axel Schuster said work is underway to progress to the small group workouts, which like the individual sessions will be voluntary.

‘Safety will always be our top priority’

“We are encouraged by this next step from the league and are well prepared for it,” Schuster said in a statement. “Safety will always be our top priority. Throughout this pandemic we have remained in constant communication with our local and provincial health authorities, as well as the league.

“We have proactively worked with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer and prepared safe and secure protocols for our next steps. We will submit our plan to the league today with the goal of starting our small group training sessions early next week.”

Toronto FC statement

Said Toronto FC: “We are working on our plan internally and in co-ordination with the league, Toronto Public Health and the province to ensure that any potential changes are meeting the health and safety regulations set in place, which is our highest priority.”

The Montreal Impact did not immediately respond to a question about its small group training plan.

Gatherings of more than five people, with the exception of those who live together, remain illegal in Ontario because of COVID-19. The limit is 10 in Quebec, representing a maximum of three households. The limit in B.C. is 50.

The league is reportedly looking at resuming play later this summer in one hub, possibly the Orlando area.

Distancing protocols

MLS says players will maintain physical distancing protocols in the small group training.

As with the individual sessions, teams will have to provide the league with club-specific plans that has been reviewed and approved by club medical staff and local infectious disease expert. The blueprint will build on the health and safety protocols implemented for the individual sessions.

The protocol calls for a maximum of six players in a group, with physical distancing rules coming into play.

Clubs can divide each full field into two halves, assigning a group of players to each segment. Each half-field can be split up into six zones, spaced at least 10 feet (three metres) apart. Only one player may be in a zone at any given time.

Players can pass the ball and shoot on goal within a group, providing they maintain physical distancing.

Other rules include barring goalkeepers from spitting on their gloves, which must be sanitized after each training.

The NWSL has already permitted small group training, pending local approval, with plans to allow full team training as of Saturday if certain requirements are met.

The nine-team women’s league is preparing for a 25-game tournament set to start June 27 in the Salt Lake City area.

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Montreal Impact begin outdoor individual training for first time since start of COVID-19

The Montreal Impact returned to their training centre Monday for their first individual outdoor practice sessions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Impact players had been training on their own since Major League Soccer suspended play March 12.

Local authorities initially turned down the MLS team’s request to get going with the voluntary individual sessions. But the Impact got the green light to start Monday.

“It feels amazing,” said captain Jukka Raitala, who is coming off a broken bone in his right leg suffered in a CONCACAF Champions League match in late February.

“The circumstances are different, way different, but we need to adapt. It’s a very nice step to be back on the field and start working on fitness and working with the ball. I couldn’t be more happy.”

“I feel great. My leg feels great. Looking forward to working even harder,” added the Finnish international.

‘Happy to be here’

Raitala said while he needs to work on his fitness, he has a “big hunger” to get back into top shape.

Spanish attacking midfielder Bojan also welcomed the chance to get back to training.

“Happy to be here,” said Bojan, who like Raitala wore a mask in his post-training interview.

“Everyone, we all want to be back playing, enjoying our sport,” he added. “But we know that the situation is not nice so we need to be patient.”

Impact midfielder Steeven Saba broke his left foot last week on what the club called “a routine jog” near his home in Montreal. he will be sidelined eight to 12 weeks.

Toronto FC and the Vancouver Whitecaps have already started their individual training sessions.

Both natural grass fields at Centre Nutrilait are being used, which allows eight players to train at the same time in separate quadrants as per the league protocol.

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Unable to work out at training facility, Impact player breaks foot on routine jog

The Montreal Impact’s inability to hold individual workouts at their training facility has proved to be costly.

The MLS club reported Wednesday that midfielder Steeven Saba will be sidelined eight to 12 weeks after breaking his left foot “on a routine jog” near his home in Montreal.

The Impact are one of six MLS clubs still waiting for the green light from local health authorities to start the individual voluntary sessions outdoor at their training facility. Toronto and Montreal have already started such workouts.

Saba, a 27-year-old Haitian international, joined Montreal after attending the 2020 training camp as a trialist. He did not see any regular-season action.

MLS suspended play March 12, two weeks into the season, due to the pandemic.

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