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FC Dallas, Nashville SC, eager to finally play again after withdrawal from MLS is Back Tournament

To say it's been a challenging stretch for the coaches and staff from FC Dallas and Nashville SC would be an understatement.

Both teams were eagerly preparing for the MLS is Back Tournament but had to withdraw after both teams endured COVID-19 outbreaks. That meant going from the anticipation of a return to competition to quarantining in Orlando before heading home without playing a match.

After taking time to recover, both sides have been training hard ahead of the league's post-Orlando restart, which they'll kick off with a pair of games at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, the first of which takes place on Wednesday (8:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada).

Nashville SC coach Gary Smith told reporters on a Monday conference call that he's been pleased with how his team has responded to the circumstances and they're excited to get back on the field.

"I think the guys have moved along very, very well from our return into Nashville from Orlando," Smith said. "There's been a number of hiccups, and I think as a team we've maybe borne the brunt of that maybe more than other groups. But if I look at the window of time we've had to get ourselves ready, to mentally and physically prepare for two difficult games in Dallas at this time of year, I'm certainly pleased with the way the guys are looking. I would imagine even given the decent physical position the challenge of playing away and getting ourselves into a very different routine of flying in and out on a day and really and truly finding our legs after five months without anything competitive action, there's always going to be some wrinkles to try and iron out.

"But I'm very pleased with the work we've been able to get through and I think that's more than anything a testament to the mentality and quality of the players," he continued. "There are a lot of individuals having seen what they have over the last five months, could have been forgiven for [being down] a little bit and looking at the season as a little bit of a loss. But I think they're very, very keen to get back on the field and this is a nice opportunity in the coming week to get two very good games under our belt."

The focus will finally return to the league season, where stacking up points will be paramount as the teams try to play catch-up. Smith said he expects the matches to be illuminating for both sides as to where they stand after such a lengthy layoff from competitive games.

"There's points on this game and of course on Sunday's and we're very, very keen as I'm sure they will be to add points and to get going in a positive fashion," he said. "I think there will be a lot learned in this first game about both teams. It's rare that you play back to back games against the same team. 

"So, expect that we'll learn quite a bit about them and vice-versa they will about us. There's nothing quite like being on the field, competing and in the same arena to really appreciate the qualities of an opponent, so there'll be fitness, sharpness, excitement, energy, competition, there will be loads and loads of things going on Wednesday for both of these teams that they haven't seen for so long."

From the FC Dallas side, head coach Luchi Gonzalez also said that he expects simply being back on the field to be a morale boost after what the players have experienced this year, adding that he feels as though the Wednesday start date worked out well as far as giving his players enough time to work their fitness back up to speed.

"We've gone through a lot of challenges and we're together in the positivity of recovery and getting guys healthy and caring for the human being," Gonzalez said. "Now that we're both in a better place that we can compete, whether we have full fitness, full rhythm, perfect tactics, footage from six months ago, that's all secondary: Right now, it's a celebration of getting to play a regular season game.

"I think this date on the 12th is honestly perfect. It's allowed us to do a little mini-preseason. We have a lot less risk of soft tissue injuries, ligaments, I think the guys feel strong, feel more ready. Each week it was progress, we've progressed these last few weeks and I think it's a perfect moment to play now."

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