It was business as usual for FC Dallas on Monday morning, 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 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 as negotiations heated up. So how close were the players to actually striking?
"Honestly, guys were serious about it,” Ihemelu said frankly. “The first day we got there, at the beginning of the meetings, [commissioner] 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.”
One of those senior players is Ihemelu’s new teammate, goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, who was left in limbo after his contract with Kansas City expired before being dealt to FCD.
“It’s interesting, some of the topics that we have broken through a little bit on now,” said Hartman, a 14-year veteran of the league. “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. 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 [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,” he continued. “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.
“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.”