Orlando City starters may use charter flights to skip quarantine

Julia Poe, Orlando Sentinel

Orlando City starters Pedro Gallese and Sebas Méndez could be available for the club’s first playoff match under a new league initiative to utilize charter flights.

The current MLS protocol has required players to quarantine for nine to 10 days upon return to the U.S. from national team call-ups. It was expected to cause major disruptions for the first round of the MLS playoffs, which conflicted directly with South American World Cup qualifying matches.

However, ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle reported Tuesday the league is working to charter international players home from their national team games. It would bypass the need for a quarantine period, allowing players to return to their clubs in time for the first round of the MLS playoffs.

“We are working closely to MLS,” a club source said Tuesday. “While we understand details are still being finalized, this is a very positive development and we look forward to having Pedro and Sebas rejoin our club later this week.”

Orlando City will play its first postseason match at noon Saturday against New York City FC. The team originally expected to play without Gallese in goal and Méndez in the midfield.

Gallese is the starting goalkeeper for the Peruvian national team, while Méndez has been an unused substitute for Ecuador during the first three World Cup qualifiers. Both will play their final qualifying match on Tuesday night — Méndez against Colombia and Gallese against Argentina.

Under the previous protocol, neither player would have been cleared to play in time for Saturday’s match. However, if they are chartered home, both would be available for selection against NYCFC.

According to the ESPN report, the league won’t necessarily be able to charter every player home, but the goal is to return “as many players as possible" via charter. This could also potentially allow NYCFC centerback Alexander Callens to return to the starting lineup for Saturday’s match.

This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Julia Poe at jpoe@orlandosentinel.com.


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