SEATTLE - Four months ago, Occidental Park, a few blocks north of CenturyLink Field, was packed with thousands of Seattle Sounders fans dressed in green and blue marching towards the stadium. They sang, they set off smoke bombs and hours later the Sounders won their second MLS Cup title.
On Saturday night, the same march took place with many fans wearing green and blue. Except that instead of a few thousand, or even 1, there were only a few hundred who went to the stadium in front of the teams. 1-1 draw with the Columbus Crew.
Clearly, Seattle becoming the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States has made a dent in the first major sporting event in the city since the region has seen a significant increase in the number of diagnosed cases and deaths.
The crowd that showed up would have been the envy of many other MLS markets. But for Seattle it was significantly different.
“Have a safe game. I don't think there will be a lot of line at the entrance to the stadium, so make the most of it, ”said the“ March to the Match ”pre-match host.
Pollsters generally have no problem shooting between 35 and 000 for their MLS home games on CenturyLink Field. But many fans responded to the outbreak by taking time off for Saturday's game against the Columbus Crew.
Sections of blue seats normally filled with vocals, singing fans where left vacant. Earlier in the week, Seattle health officials had not recommended rescheduling sporting events, but it was clear that a large portion of Sounders fans were not trying.
This was a stark contrast to last Sunday, before the number of confirmed cases soared, when more than 40 people showed up for Seattle's season opener against Chicago to celebrate the Cup title. MLS won last November.
But the whole week was different for all the sports teams in the region, who answered as many questions about their preventive measures against coronavirus as about everything that happens on the field or on the ground.
“It's a real situation,” Seattle coach Brian Schmetzer said this week. “The club obviously keeps me updated and the decisions the club makes at higher levels are above my payroll. I accept it because it is serious business. "
Earlier Saturday, Washington state officials increased the death toll from the coronavirus to 16. The Washington State Department of Health announced the two additional deaths and said the number of people diagnosed with the virus had risen to 102. At least 10 of those who died had been linked to a nursing home in the Seattle area.
The Sounders game was the culmination of the odd week for the local teams. Seattle University's men's and women's basketball teams have had their games canceled. The Seattle men were scheduled to host Chicago State and Missouri-Kansas City, but the two schools have announced they will not travel to Seattle for the games.
Washington's men's and women's basketball teams faced off on the road. The Seattle Mariners continued their spring training in Arizona with growing concerns over whether they should play their first stint starting March 26.
Although there have been a few cancellations, most of the events went without delays or restrictions. The Washington Interscholastic Activities Association has held state basketball tournaments for boys and girls throughout the week in three locations across the state.
Elliott Feldman was one of the Sounders fans who didn't change plans and showed up on Saturday night. The 36-year-old physiotherapist knew it was going to be a different type of night when he might unexpectedly find a parking lot in front of the restaurant where he was having dinner with his wife before the game.
Feldman said concerns about the outbreak were on his mind.
"Should I go? Should I not go? Said Feldman. “And with all the communications, it feels like I shouldn't. But in all likelihood, it's probably not that widespread. "
Ellie Somers, Feldman's wife, said she was surprised even on Saturday morning the game was still considering the number of other events in the area that had been postponed, or the decision by the University of Washington and Seattle University to take online courses for the near future.
“Personally, I'm not very worried,” Somers said of the outbreak. “And I do my best to protect others by washing my hands. … I want to live my life normally. "
In a statement released Thursday, the Sounders said they were "in constant dialogue with regional health authorities and Major League Soccer, in addition to our network of medical experts."
The team said it had also worked with First & Goal Inc., the operator of CenturyLink Field, to expand sanitation procedures and increase hand sanitization stations throughout the site. The team said they were also aware of a part-time stadium employee who worked a Seattle Dragons game on February 22 and subsequently tested positive for the coronavirus. Health officials have determined this employee's risk to be low.
This article appeared first (in English) on http://espn.com/soccer/seattle-sounders-fc/story/4069706/seattle-sounders-see-smaller-crowd-amid-coronavirus-outbreak