By Mary Cunningham

The Union have finally made it to the MLS mountaintop, and they play NYCFC today in Chester for the Eastern Conference title.

But COVID has decimated their roster.

11 players have been placed in the MLS Health and Safety protocols and cannot play today.

The list includes usual starters Alejandro Bedoya — who is the team’s captain — goalkeeper Andre Blake, left-back Kai Wagner, center-back Jack Elliott and center-back Jakob Glesnes. Also on the list are backup goalkeeper Joe Bendik, forward Cory Burke, midfielder Ilsinho, defender Alvas Powell, forward Sergio Santos and midfielder Quinn Sullivan.

A player will be listed as being as out due to “Health and Safety Protocols” for quarantine due to participating in high-risk behaviour, quarantine related to being a high-risk close contact, pending COVID-19 test results, an inconclusive COVID-19 test result, a positive COVID-19 test or a confirmed case or other illness not related to COVID-19.

A league source confirmed to ESPN that the game is going ahead as planned.

The seriousness of the situation emerged earlier this week when the Union’s practice session on Thursday was canceled. The team trained with reduced numbers on Friday.

“We hope to have as many players available as possible for our game against NYCFC,” manager Jim Curtin said during Friday’s news conference.

He added, “Our players have worked tirelessly to get to this point. I know they’ll be brave even in the adversity that we’re facing.

“We’ve stepped up in big moments all year long. Be it international absences, the challenges of CONCACAF, players losing loved ones.

“Adversity on and off the field, this group always finds a way to step up. We will make our fans proud.”

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