How wildfire smoke is taking a toll on West Coast teams in MLS | Charles Boehm

This MLS season has already been hit by a global viral pandemic and resulting shutdowns and economic slowdowns, more galling incidents of police violence against Black Americans and subsequent protests and societal discussions about structural racism, as well as the general political upheaval around a contentious US election set for November.

As if all that wasn’t enough to deal with, several MLS clubs on the West Coast have been affected by the dozens of horrendous wildfires burning across more than four million acres, blanketing much of the region in smoke that has reached hazardous levels in many areas.

“As we know, this is 2020,” Portland Timbers head coach Giovanni Savarese told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday, probably summing up the current mood both in MLS and across North America as a whole.

The Timbers, Seattle Sounders , Vancouver Whitecaps , San Jose Earthquakes and both Los Angeles teams live and work in the vicinity of fires and have seen their local air quality index (AQI) numbers suffer as a result, though the degree to which they’ve been affected varies significantly.

As a result, the Timbers have moved all recent training sessions to a local indoor facility, where a smaller pitch constricts Savarese’s tactical preparations but protects his players’ lungs from the outside air.

The Quakes were badly affected by severe fires in their region last month, forced by conditions to reschedule or adjust a number of practices – perhaps it’s no coincidence that they remain winless since the MLS is Back Tournament – though AQI readings in San Jose have stabilized of late, dropping from “unhealthy” over the weekend to “good” as of the time of writing on Wednesday afternoon.

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