Toronto FC expects to play six games in home away from home in East Hartford

Toronto FC expects to play six games in home away from home in East Hartford

Toronto FC expects to play six regular-season games at its home away from home in East Hartford, Conn.

And team president Bill Manning says while the first couple of matches will be behind closed doors at Pratt & Whitney Stadium at Rentschler Field, the club may look at admitting fans down the line.

“We said we’re going to talk about it,” Manning said. “We’re going to talk about the potential of having fans in the stadium for the remaining four games.”

“If the team is comfortable with it — the state of Connecticut is doing very well right now (with COVID-19). Obviously they have some guidelines on fans and so on but we’re going to explore it after the first couple of games,” he added.

Toronto (6-2-3) headed south on a charter Friday evening in advance of Saturday’s contest at D.C. United (2-5-4). TFC will then head to its Hartford hub to prepare for a game next Wednesday against New York City FC at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J.

Toronto “hosts” Columbus Crew SC on Sept. 27 in East Hartford with Oct. 3 its next game there although that date has yet to be announced officially. The six games in Hartford will take care of TFC’s remaining home portion of the regular season.

“Like everything, we’re making the best out of a difficult situation,” said Manning.

Hotel vacancies have helped, with the club finding a home at a five-star hotel with plenty of rooms. The club has multiple options for training fields, including Trinity College and the Farmington soccer club as well as a local private school.

All are within 10 minutes of the hotel, said Manning.

The team has got good reports on the grass field and venue it will play games on. TFC’s head groundskeeper Robert Heggie knows the stadium groundskeeper, who used to work in MLS.

“They’ve been comparing notes and they’re going to try to get the field to exactly the way we like it cut,” said Manning.

Connecticut state officials have also done their bit to ease the transition, Manning said.

The team may return briefly to Toronto, with Manning saying there are protocols that allow it to return to the U.S. before the normal 14-day quarantine period is over.

“We’re still working on all this,” he said. “But I think that we’ll have some solutions there.”

The team does not expect to be able to play games at BMO Field. If it does return briefly from the U.S., it won’t be able to train in Toronto because the travelling party will be in quarantine while here.

“We’re going to be down there the bulk of the time,” said Manning.

Toronto has played four games at BMO Field this season, three of which were behind closed doors against Canadian opposition.

Border restrictions keeping U.S. teams out have forced the three Canadian teams to head south to keep playing.

MLS has only announced the next three games per team. An announcement on the next stretch of the schedule will follow.

Toronto came close to choosing Philadelphia as its U.S. base, said Manning, who spent time in the Philadelphia Eagles front office earlier in his career.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 18, 2020.

___

Follow @NeilMDavidson on Twitter

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press

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