Copa America will not be taking place this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The announcement came today that the tournament will be pushed to 2021 in host countries Colombia and Argentina. While cancellations of soccer matches are never a good thing, this postponement could benefit Orlando City if and when the 2020 MLS season resumes.
This is an extraordinary measure for an unexpected situation and responds to the fundamental need to prevent the exponential evolution of the virus. It was not easy to make that decision, but we must always protect the health of our players and everyone who is part of the great football family in South America. Do not doubt that the oldest international tournament in the world will be back stronger than ever in 2021 - said Alejandro Dominguez, president of Conmebol.
The Lions were all but assured of losing Ecuadorian midfielder Sebas Mendez and Peruvian goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to their national teams for about a month or longer due to the tournament, which was originally scheduled to kick off June 12. Both Mendez and Gallese are key performers for Orlando City, and both are expected to start just about every match they are available.
Through two matches, Mendez is among Major League Soccer’s passing leaders, at 89.1% on an average of 55 attempts per game. Through two appearances, the Ecuadorian international has already attempted five shots with one on target after attempting just 10 (none on frame) in 23 matches a year ago. He’s played every minute for the Lions so far.
Gallese has also played all 180 minutes for Orlando City in 2020, posting a shutout in his first MLS match and making four saves, with a 1.00 goals-against average. He’s looked the part in his first two MLS starts.
Should the 2020 MLS season resume, the duo will be able to stay with the Lions for what will no doubt be a condensed schedule and a congested one at that. No games have been officially canceled as of yet, but should the current sports lockdown continue for several more weeks, that will just about be a foregone conclusion.
But a condensed schedule for Orlando City with both Mendez and Gallese may give the Lions a better chance at a good finish than missing two key players for a sizable chunk of the year.
In the end, this probably just kicks the can to next season, as the 47th edition of the Copa America will now take place June 11 to July 11, 2021. Mendez and Gallese will likely both still be very much in their national teams’ plans. But at least it’s nice to know the Lions won’t be jetting off to South America as teams are returning to the pitch.