ELMA, NY (WKBW) — FC Buffalo has returned to the practice field after a months-long hiatus.
"The guys are buzzing," center back Robert Williamson said. "Everybody looks very cohesive and everybody looks like they're eager to play."
The minor league soccer team was originally set to begin their season in March but COVID-19 changed everything, including the way they practice.
"We've been a team for 11 years," FC Buffalo owner Nick Mendola said. "The first 10 years we did things one way. COVID has changed everything that we're gonna do. Yes, we're all fortunate to be able to exercise and be outside and to participate in sports again but we have to be very, very careful."
Players must wear a mask when walking to and from the field and before they can actually practice, their temperature is taken and must be below 100.4. They've also been self isolating off the soccer pitch and have all been tested for COVID-19.
"Once we get out of this place it's important that we keep our distance from everybody and stay safe," goalkeeper Noah Smith said.
"We have faith that these guys love the game enough and love each other enough to keep safe," added Mendola.
The team is set to play three games over the next two weeks. They'll go through another COVID-19 test and will be traveling with each other. When they arrive at their final destination, they will be isolating with their teammates.
They're also putting a lot of trust in the opposition but thanks to measures taken by the league, FC Buffalo feels safe to play.
"The National Independent Soccer Association has been explicit in how we deal with what we do and what they expect and the return to play protocol," Mendola said about the league's 55-page document.
They're the first minor league team in Western New York that will be traveling and playing during the pandemic and want to do everything they can to set an example.
"We're just trying to get out here, get some touches, and make this city proud," said Williamson.
"We don't want to be the broken brick that makes the whole thing tumble down in Western New York," Mendola added. "So we accept this responsibility wholeheartedly."
FC Buffalo's schedule is as follows:
July 24th - vs. Erie Commodores in Erie, Pennsylvania
July 29th - vs. Cleveland SC in Erie
Aug. 2nd - vs. Detroit City FC in Detroit, Michigan