MLS on Tuesday unveiled some of the details of the new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement between the League and the MLS Players Union that was agree to last weekend. After the Rapids’ Tuesday morning practice here at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, we caught up with Pablo Mastroeni and Jeff Larentowicz to get their thoughts on the process and reaction to the final agreement.
Pablo, talk about the decision for you and the other MLS players to go to Washington D.C. last weekend to meet with MLS; what you think of the new CBA that was agreed to by the League and MLS Players Union…
Pablo Mastroeni: "I think we were running up against the clock [inline_node:6043]and we needed to get a deal done. I think both sides wanted to avoid a strike at all consequences, and in order to really hash that out we needed to have a group of people making decisions on the spot, and not having to get on conference calls and having people wait by their phones.
So, it was important that our reps got out there and more importantly that we found middle ground where both camps came away happy with the result and the progress that we’re making. And more importantly, both sides came away understanding that it’s going to take both of us to grow the league, and that one can’t do it without the other."
On the influence of veteran players like yourself being part of the meetings…
Mastroeni: "Having been the league for a while, you realize no change can happen overnight. I think the improvements that we’ve made in the league since I first started in 98 have been small, but none the less have progressed in the right direction.
This CBA, obviously, we were miles apart at one point, but we realized that too much change to any ecosystem would disturb it. All the while we want to make progress in the right direction so that in five years we can then look at how far we’ve come and then make the appropriate changes to further grow the league."
Jeff, you were part of the CBA negotiations as a member of the NE Revolution, and continued that role after joining the Rapids. What were the differences in the discussion a few months ago, compared to this past weekend when the agreement was reached.
Jeff Larentowicz: "I think that what it came down to was that both sides wanted to play this season, and they realized that if there was a work stoppage that it would take some time to heal what was done.
But I think in the last couple of negations, that like any collective bargaining, both sides had to find a common ground. I think that although the players union were for the longest time were pretty solid on their stance of what they wanted, I think that the League finally realized that it was probably time to make some changes and they did."
What was the gap that was bridged from months ago?
Larentowicz: "Sometimes it takes, in collective bargaining, to get close to or even reach the threshold where you’re standing on the edge of the cliff. As you walk forward you know that it’s approaching and it’s easier to say we can handle it later. There wasn’t as much of a strict deadline staring us in the face a few months ago.
When things were extended in February, it was easy to say, “Oh, we’ll do it later,” or “we’ll push it on a little bit more.” I think it was also a case of the folks at the league testing our resolve and testing how unified the players were. And once they realize that in the end, it was time for them to move."
On the importance of MLS veterans participating in the negotiation...
Larentowicz: "I think the changes that have come have allowed the league to reward players who have been in the league for a while and have shown some commitment to the league. The problem with the league was retaining high profile and talented players; players that would leave for more money and more rights elsewhere. At this point, what the league has done is found a way, slowly and incrementally, to reward those players who have been around for a while, and I think that that’s good."
Did you see any difference from the player’s point of view from New England to Colorado?
Larentowicz: "No. I think there was very little difference from team to team, and I think that was part of the reason that the league felt that they needed to change. It was not an instance where three or four teams got together and thought that things needed to change; it was across the board that there were 15 teams and now 16 teams new that they needed to stand together to really affect change in the process."