I apologize for being a little late with this, but when the Sounders returned to local training Monday, the Collective Bargaining Agreement -- of lack of one -- was the key off-field topic in talks with Sounders GM Garth Lagerwey and player rep Brad Evans.
Here's most of what they had to say:
"I think right now we’re at a point where we’re getting down to the nitty gritty. Six months ago you’d meet every month and a half to two months. And as the time gets closer it seems like every single day we’re getting an email about anything from wording in certain subjects in the CBA to kind of where we stand on a lot of issues. Every day is something new and obviously with negotiations it’s going to go back and forth until the last minute. Right now I can say that we’re still not where we want to be. I think anytime that you look at negotiations, the team or the league has kind of the power right now to say we’re going to wait until the last minute to give you some sort of an offer – and I would think the same exact way. Right now as players, we’ve got to stay committed to the cause, we’ve got to stay focused, and it’s difficult because we’ve also got to stay focused on Sounders and on our teams and starting the season and hopefully starting the season on time. That’s our goal. Our goal from minute one has always been to start the season on March 8, or whatever it is, but right now we’re far off from where we want to be. It’s going to take some fighting, it’s going to take some grittiness, it’s going to take everybody to stay together. But at the end of the day, I really hoep that we get something resolved, but I can say right now that we’re not close to where we want to be.
On if he's more optimistic than at start of camp: No. I would say as time has gone, like I said, no progress has really been made on the big issues. So I’m definitely not as confident as I was. But like I said, I think when you’re negotiating as that 11th hour comes along, I think that’s what you’re waiting for: for some movement. So I think that we’re kind of buckled down and waiting. And at that time we’ll take a vote and we’ll see where we stand. And if the offer is good enough, then we’ll take it, and if we’re not then we’ll see what happens.
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On comparing the feeling to the negotiations of 2010: I think we were so far off on so many issues that five years ago we couldn’t take a stand on free agency, we couldn’t take a stand on minimum salaries yet, because there were so many things that had to be hashed out first. And we talked about getting our foot in the door however we can with free agency. Five years ago it was talked about, but it isn’t want it is right now. It’s not the ever-present issue that is in the back of all the players’ minds. We think that we deserve it now. We’ve put in another five years of growing this league, and especially those who have played in the league for 10 years, we think that we should be able to choose where we go. We don’t want astronomical prices. We understand the economics of it. We’ve had a phenomenal economics team look at where the league stands, look at where we stand as players, and we want what’s fair for everybody. I think all the small issues were handled then and it leaves us with the bigger issues now.Strike, lockout) I think at this point a strike is imminent if we don’t get what we want. And that’s kind of where it stands. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes, but we all have to be smart about it and we’ve all got to look at the repercussions. But we’ve also got to know that a lot of players built this league and feel that they should be rewarded with some sort of movement in where they play. We’ll see what happens. It’s going to be interesting.
On if league can afford work stoppage: Well, that’s up to them. I think the players have to be focused on what we want. There’s going to be no other time for us to be able to do this. I think that this is a pressing time, and I think that we want to play, No. 1. And we want to be there for our fans, but we’ve also got to understand that we’ve put in a lot of work to get where we are now and we feel like we should be treated not even as fair as the rest of the world right now: We just want some sort of movement when it comes to free agency. We feel that the league is strong enough. We’ve gained the momentum from the World Cup, we’ve got two new teams, I think right now to be honest the fans are on our side. I think they want to push forward and they want to see this league grow just as much as we do. … There’s still going to be a salary cap, and that’s the bottom line. It’s not like we’re asking for a free market and are going to drive prices up. The economics are still going to be there.
Meanwhile, Lagerwey had less to say, noting that the league promises a steep fine for club management speaking out on the issue.
"We’re not included in any way, shape or form." he said. "I have nothing profound or even relevant to tell you on that front. I have no idea. … I realize it’s an unsatisfactory answer to hear, and it’s an unsatisfactory answer to believe as well. Again, we are not included in any way, shape or form in the process. That’s between the league and the players, and they will figure it out. Everyone gets fined I think a quarter-million bucks for talking to anybody else. I think that’s a fairly steep deterrent for anyone having conversations, much less forecasting when things might get done."
He was asked if the club has plans for the possible cancellation of the scheduled opener March 8.
"I guess the plan is send a release that says ‘Don’t show up at the stadium,'" he said. "Not to be flippant, but I think we’ll know it before March 8 one way or the other and yeah, if we don’t get an agreement the teams of this is is it a work stoppage, is it a lockout, all that impacts what we can and can’t do in those circumstances and I’m sure the league will have a view in what we can and can’t. My fervent hope is that we don’t have a work stoppage and that we’re ready to play March 8. I’d much rather scramble at the last minute to make sure we get everything launched the right way. To be clear: We’re planning on business as usual, we’re planning on business as usual. WE’re planning on having a game not only on March 8 but every week this season. And we think we’re going to have a team that’s ready to play."