The Earthquakes continued their preseason training today at West Valley College in Saratoga. I have nothing new to report directly from practice, but do want to follow up on some post-practice conversations from yesterday.
First off, I caught up with new signing Joey Gjertsen, where he shared his thoughts on joining the Earthquakes and MLS. He targets the outside midfielder position as his best chance to make an impact with the team. While not the most physical player you'll see on the field, Gjertsen has a great awareness of the play around him, and will use his speed to create opportunities in the offensive third. When I asked him what player he modeled himself after, he cited Brazilian playmaker Kaka. While he quickly acknowledged that he and the Real Madrid superstar are not at the same level talent-wise, Gjersten does feel that the style and scope of their play is similar. "(Kaka) is so well-rounded in every aspect of his game," explained Gjertsen. "I know I can be very dynamic, and I'm striving every day in practice to be as well-rounded as I can be." Think ball movement, positioning off the ball, and an effective shot - all traits the two players make a priority as their contributions on the field.
I've focused a great deal of attention on the new faces in camp these past three weeks here on Center Line Soccer, but what about some of the veterans? Last year's Earthquakes defender of the year, Chris Leitch spoke with me briefly on Thursday about how he sees the defensive squad coming together this preseason, after suffering through a disappointing 2009 season. With Jason Hernandez still on target to make the opening day starting XI, and Brandon McDonald showing strong development entering his third MLS season, Leitch envisions a much stronger start to 2010 than we saw last season. "There some good quality talent here (in camp)," said Leitch. "We have some young guys, and of course our core guys. All of those are coming together, and we expect to be more than decent."
Lastly, at the conclusion of another tough day of training, the whole team circled the benches for a players-only meeting. While not privy to the actual conversation, I can say that the nearly 20 minute long meeting left some players looking rather intense as they left the WVC soccer fields for the parking lot. I'm being purely speculative when I say this, but I imagine a considerable part of the meeting dealt with the issues of the ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions between the league and the players' union.
The union representative for the Earthquakes, Joe Cannon, has refused to share any details of the negotiations to date, so we are only left with the occasional tidbit from other MLS players. Recent Twitter comments from the Revolution's Taylor Twellman and ex-Quake Shea Salinas make it clear that the players are frustrated with the lack of progress toward securing greater player rights. With the latest CBA deadline extended to next week, after being twice extended past the original February 1 date, time is running out for both sides to peacefully come to a new agreement and avoid a potential work stoppage.
"Devastating" is the word most bandied about when I hear those talking about the short-term effects an MLS work stoppage would have on the league. For now, until either the players' union or MLS announce otherwise, preseason training will continue, and the regular season will start as planned in late March. For the rest of us, we can only hope that a new CBA is ratified soon.
[Update] Within hours of this posting, various representatives for the MLS players union have spoken out on the current state of the CBA negotiations. Jeff Carlisle spoke with both Pat Onstad and Joe Cannon to get their impressions of the ongoing talks with MLS. His report can be found here.