Games played behind closed doors are
nothing new in soccer.
Teams are often required to hold matches without fans as punishment for crowd trouble.
LAFC coach Bob Bradley knows all about playing behind closed doors. He served as Egypt's national team coach during the Arab Spring in 2011.
After the 2012 Port Said Stadium riot, during which 74 people were killed following an Egyptian Premier League match between Al-Masry and Al-Ahly, league play was suspended and Bradley's national team was forced to open World Cup qualifying at home behind closed doors.
For the opening qualifier against Mozambique, a full military band played the Egyptian anthem in Alexandria's 80,000-seat Borg el Arab military stadium, but no fans were allowed in the stands to sing along.
"It was an eerie feeling," said Bradley. "I remember when we trained in the stadium the night before, we gathered everybody and said, ‘Try to look into the stands and imagine there’s 90 million Egyptians here. Because if they had the chance, they’d be here with us.'"
Egypt made it all the way to the final round of qualifying with a perfect record before it was allowed to play in Cairo before a full house. Unfortunately, the Pharaohs lost the first leg to Ghana, 6-1, taking all the drama out of the second leg, which they won, 2-1.
What was different from the aftermath of the Port Said Stadium riot and the current shutdown in MLS is that he could still connect with his players in person and gather for practice and training games. Indeed, the strong bond he formed with his players stemmed from that dramatic period of isolation.
"Once we got through those initial days following Port Said," Bradley said, "we found ways to set up camps and games. When we got together and were able to look at each other, interact, that made a huge difference. The ability to connect with people right now when you’re not actually with them, that’s what we have right now. Doing it in different ways.”
He admits it will he hard to play without LAFC's 3252 supporters behind the goal at the Banc of California Stadium, assuming play will resume behind closed doors.
“In reality, the game without fans has no soul,” Bradley said. “But as I said, this is different, and we are all looking to find ways. When it’s the right time, when it’s safe to get going again and that ability to reconnect and show everybody that the game continues will be very important."
He says the most important thing will be the lift playing again will give everyone.
“Let’s figure out how to get everybody going again," he said. "Let’s make sure we reconnect with all our fans. And whether it’s in one site, whether it’s a short season that gets into the playoffs, I think what we will see when we finally get started again is that everybody will be completely on board and completely committed to the fact that after all of us worked together to move through the challenge of this period, the game is going. And then we will be excited to partake in anything that gets put together.