From his home, Bob Bradley followed the news closely. Like everyone else in Los Angeles, the LAFC head coach learned of California Governor Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti's "Safer At Home" directive to combat the spread of COVID-19 on Thursday night.
The news didn't come as a surprise.
"We fully support the actions. These are the measures needed to be sure that the situation can be controlled in the best way possible," Bradley said via phone on Friday morning. "Most importantly, it's understanding the responsibility that we all have to stay home, be responsible, and do everything that we can to mitigate the situation."
The local and state order asking residents to stay home except for "essential activities" comes less than 24 hours after MLS announced it would be following the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation by extending the postponement of its season to eight weeks. It also comes a week after LAFC's Concacaf Champions League match against Cruz Azul had to be suspended.
Though unprecedented, the recent events bring to mind another time without football in Bradley's past. As the coach of the Egyptian national team in 2012, Bradley guided his team in the aftermath of the Port Said Stadium riot that claimed 74 lives and resulted in the cancellation of the remainder of the Egyptian Premier League season.
"At that time in Egypt, when there was so much unrest and division, the opportunities that we had to still get the group of players together and have camps and work together, we always had this idea that we could be a strong example of what it meant to work together when there was so much division," Bradley said. "Obviously, the challenge in this situation is different because physically we can’t get together. The strong reminders of support and that being responsible and reminding family and friends of the situation, that ultimately is what is going to work best for everyone."
In addition to the measures put in place by state and local authorities, MLS has also mandated a moratorium on team training through March 27. With his team unable to be physically together, Bradley has drawn on that past experience to stress a mentality of togetherness even as we take necessary steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus by being apart.
"The strongest reminder has been to make sure that everyone understands this is a global situation. It’s not something that we are just facing in Los Angeles and that the responsibility that people have around the world is to be responsible, stay home, and reach out and support each other," Bradley said. "Obviously, we’re so fortunate at LAFC. Our culture, where every day as players arrive at the Performance Center, there's camaraderie, there's enthusiasm, there's the passion for what we’re all doing and the love that everybody has to get on the field and train and push ourselves. And when you’re not at a period where you have that ability to be there, reinforcing that we’re all together, even when we’re not physically in the same place, this is so important."
To stay connected, Bradley said he and his staff are using every tool at their disposal. Whether it's via text, facetime, email, or phone, there's been constant contact between players, coaches, and staff.
LAFC Performance Director Gavin Benjafield and Head Performance Coach Daniel Guzman worked on arranging a team workout via video conferencing. Bradley said player scouting for the future has continued using video and various platforms. While the coaching staff has maintained its commitment to frank discussions about the state of the team and improving.
"What we try to do every day amongst the staff is to create real dialogue and have real discussions. We challenge each other with ideas. We look hard at games and training. And we continuously discuss details of how we can move forward," Bradley said. "So, when we’re not able to be together, we don’t want that part to get away from us. Those kinds of discussions and that kind of engagement is so important to the work we do and so important to our environment. We’re continuing to try to maintain as much of that as we can."
The unique situation has also provided Bradley with opportunities to reach out to his counterparts around the globe. Bradley said he's spoken with his former assistant at Stabaek and traded training video. He's also spoken with former player and current Red Bull Salzburg head coach Jesse Marsch. The two talked about Marsch's side in Austria and discussed LAFC's last MLS match against Philadelphia.
"You have a chance with colleagues around the world to check-in, make sure their families are doing well, and discuss football a little bit," Bradley said.
That commitment to being united even from afar is something Bradley stressed goes beyond his team and players to the Club's connection with its fans and city as a whole.
"Really, it’s also something that we say to all our fans. The connection that LAFC has with the fans and the city is so unique and so special. It comes to life when there are games and the stadium is alive with the passion and the diversity and spirit of people throughout Los Angeles," Bradley said. "But now what we need to do is help each other.
"We need to make sure that collectively we’re all doing the right things, knowing that this is what’s needed to get a return to the part that we all love."