FRISCO, Texas---On Monday morning, it was business as usual for FC Dallas as Schellas Hyndman’s club trained for nearly two hours in preparation for Saturday’s season opener with Houston. However, at one point last week, it looked like any MLS activity this week could be in jeopardy since the players and league had yet to agree on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
But late last week, the two sides found some middle ground and struck a new five-year deal. It’s a safe bet that every member of Hyndman’s roster is happy that their season opener with the Dynamo will take place as planned.
“I think a lot of guys are, and a lot of guys in the front office and everything are really appreciative that we got to a deal and that the season is able to go forward,” FCD defender Ugo Ihemelu said after training. "Now we can just move past that and look forward to the season. We don’t have to worry about people losing jobs or anything like that.”
The veteran defender is FCD’s player representative and last week after his team returned from a six-day trip to Tampa, he immediately caught another plane, this one to Washington, DC as negotiations heated up.
“It was pretty intense to be honest. Some guys had taken red eye flights, so they were kind of tired but everybody was focused on getting something done,” Ihemelu said of the negotiations. “We knew it was really important and that it would really affect a lot of people. Everybody was putting their heads together trying to grind it out and figure out what we needed to do to get everything figured out.”
[inline_node:7403]And when asked how close the players came to striking, he offered a pretty frank answer.
“Honestly, guys were serious about it. The players felt like there really needed to be some changes,” the FCD defender said. “The first day we got there, at the beginning of the meetings, (Don) Garber came in and acknowledged that in some things, players weren’t being treated fairly and there were certain situations that were brought up that happened to certain senior players.
"Jeff Larentowicz had a situation where he played out his contract and he wasn’t happy about where he was. And there were older guys like Kevin Hartman who had put in time in the league. Those were big issues and Garber did acknowledge that certain things needed to be changed, but he also did state that the league was still early in its growth and that they couldn’t give us all the changes we wanted. They had to be controlled changes and something that would make the players happy but at the same time, keep everything in order so the league can continue to grow.”
Two of his teammates also expressed their feelings about the new deal.
“It’s interesting, some of the topics that we have broken through a little bit on now. It’s great to see the growth. I think at the beginning of the league, we took a lot more of a difficult approach by trying to sue all the time,” said FCD goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, a 14-year league veteran. “I think that now that we’ve got something in place, it shows the players are committed to the growth of the league. I think that Don (Garber) did a great job of recognizing that.”
Hartman also sees this agreement as setting a precedent.
“Hopefully, it’s something that in the future will be a mutually beneficial agreement where they can pick our brains about some stuff. For five years now, we don’t have to worry about going through what we’ve gone through the past year-and-a-half in terms of the negotiation process and the preparation for that,” he said.
“We’re obviously optimistic about it. I haven’t seen the finalized things yet because I decided to stay here and train because I needed the work after my long off-season. I look forward to seeing how everything is implemented, but have a ton of respect for the guys that helped with that. I thought the guys within the union showed a ton of union and solidarity. That’s something that really went a long way in terms of getting it done.”
FCD midfielder Dax McCarty was equally pleased that the two sides agreed to favorable terms.
“Obviously, the most important thing is that an agreement was reached and we can start the season on time. I don’t think anybody from the league and players wanted a work stoppage,” McCarty said. “When you have these types of things, it happens in every sport and it was necessary. The players were unified and strong.
"I don’t know all the details of the CBA yet but it seems like we got a good amount of things we wanted. It seems like the league kept hold of the single-entity structure for the most part. I think both sides are pretty happy with the deal, and now we can just go out there and play.”
However, in the end, he realizes who benefits the most from the new deal.
“We (the players) were obviously very strong in our beliefs that there needed to be some change and credit to both sides for working hard to get a deal done. I think especially for the fans, it was important that there wasn’t a work stoppage,” McCarty said. “That’s the most important thing.”