MLS is Back opens with statement
More than 100 MLS Black players, including eight Portland Timbers, participated in a silent protest before the kickoff of the first match of the MLS is Back tournament on Wednesday.
The players, wearing black shirts with slogans such as "Silence is Violence" and "Black and Proud," lined up on the field as the starters for Orlando City and Inter Miami CF knelt around the center circle for a moment of silence promoting change to racial injustice.
The players remained in place for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in tribute to George Floyd, who was killed in May by police in Minneapolis.
Timbers players who participated were Diego Chara, Yimmi Chara, Chris Duvall, Jeremy Ebobisse, Zac McGraw, Bill Tuiloma and Eryk Williamson. The Timbers play their first match of the tournament at 7:30 p.m. Monday, July, 13 against the LA Galaxy.
Justin Morrow, president of MLS Black Players for Change, told ESPN the protest was "a moment of solidarity, standing up with our brothers and sisters fighting the fight for racial equality and human rights."
Morrow said MLS Black Players for Change wanted to take advantage of the moment with all MLS teams in the Orlando, Florida area for the tournament.
"Everything that you saw tonight came from us," Morrow said. "What you saw tonight was a special moment that was driven by the players, and Major League Soccer helped collaborate with us to make that happen."
Black Players for Change — initially called the Black Players Coalition — formed last month and includes more than 170 MLS players. Its goal is to give Black players a stronger voice to affect change both within the league and beyond.
Orlando City won Wednesday's match, 2-1, on a goal in the seventh minute of added time by Nani. Former Portland Pilots goalkeeper Luis Robles made one save in the loss for Inter Miami. former Pilot Benji Michel entered the match in the 83rd minute for Orlando City.
• Union win opener — In the second game of the tournament on Thursday morning Philadelphia beat New York City, 1-0. Montreal and New England are scheduled to play at 5 p.m. Thursday (TUDN television). Friday's match will feature Seattle against San Jose at 6 p.m. (ESPN).
• Nashville out of tourney — Nashville SC became the second team pulled from the MLS os Back Tournament because of positive tests for COVID-19. As a result, Chicago is moving into Group B with Seattle, Vancouver and San Jose and the tournament now features six four-team groups.
• Sierakowski traded away — The Timbers on Thursday traded T2 forward Ryan Sierakowski to Real Salt Lake for a future MLS SuperDraft pick. The pick is RSL's fourth-round pick in 2023, unless Sierakoski signs a MLS contrackt with RSL. In that case, Portland will get Real Salt Lake's second-round pick in the draft following his signing.
As a rookie last season out of Michigan State, Sierakowski had eight goals and two assists in 32 appearances with T2. the Timbers drafted Sierakowski with the 29th pick in the 2019 SuperDraft.
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