07-23-11 v SJ 04 Saborio PK

Being in the line of fire is nothing new for William Hesmer. After all, he is a goalkeeper.

As the Crew’s union representative during the recent Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations, Hesmer was the voice for his teammates to the public for much of the past three months.

And he was the target for barbs from fans who couldn’t understand why a bunch of  athletes playing a game would consider a strike in these tough economic times.

“I was taking a lot of heat there for awhile,” Hesmer said. “A lot of it is what you come to expect, and some of it is misinformed and misguided.”

He tried to stick to the union talking points and not take the slings personally, even though it’s not his nature to bite his tongue.

“It was very unfair because he knew what was going on,” defender Frankie Hejduk said. “He was speaking his mind as to what was going on and not against anyone. Some used that against him. He knew what to say and how to say it. He did an incredible job. He spoke for all of us.”

When talks reached the critical stage last week and the start of the season hung in the balance, Hesmer and midfielder Brian Carroll flew to Washington while their teammates continued training in Dallas after the March 17 match in Mexico vs. Toluca.

“Everybody wanted it done before preseason kicked off,” Hesmer said. “Unfortunately, that’s the nature of things that it doesn’t get done until there’s the pressure point.”

Hesmer admitted Tuesday after practice in Columbus that the process resulting in Saturday’s agreement was draining.

“Especially going down the stretch, there were some sleepless night for sure,” he said. “You don’t want to be the guy at the table responsible for bringing the league down but at the same time that was none of our intentions going in."

“We don’t want to see the league fail. Once they saw we were collectively trying to work with them things really turned around.”

Hesmer, an academic All-American at Wake Forest, took his role seriously and studied every proposal, counteroffer and suggestion to break the deadlock.

“He was filling us in every chance he had,” Hejduk said. “He was really aware what was going on and detailed it for us. You couldn’t ask for a more perfect rep, to be honest.”

With the labor issues in the rearview mirror, Hesmer can look forward to Saturday’s season opener against Toronto FC as the Crew starts the quest for a record third straight Supporters’ Shield.

“I’m happy,” he said “This is the guys’ passion and what guys love to do and they’ll be able to keep doing it and there’s going to be no games missed.”