The Quakes pre-season game Wednesday night was instantly forgettable, as fans and players alike focused their attention on the action to come. No, not the regular season, scheduled to begin next week, but the ongoing negotiations to see if there will be any MLS soccer played in the near future.
After shivering through a scoreless draw at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium, San Jose's Joe Cannon and Houston's Pat Onstad boarded a plane for Washington D.C. to join their fellow players' union representatives, executives from the league office, and George Cohen, the director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to try and settle on a new labor agreement in time for the season to start as planned March 25.
Everybody's talking about a possible strike, but no one's really saying anything.
"I'm glad the league made the offer to fly the guys in," Pat Onstad said. "I think it's important that everyone be there at this stage, and let the process be what it is."
"It's interesting now," Joe Cannon said. "(The L.A. Galaxy's) Tim Leiweke spoke, and Lew Wolff spoke, so you can tell that the owners care which I think is a good thing. I'm not going to comment on what they said, because I'm going off to DC to figure out our own response. It's a difficult situation right now, we'll just have to wait and see."
Cannon added, "Obviously I can't speak for the other side, but for us, we need to stay united."
The Washington Post has reported the players have voted 350-2 in favor of a strike if an agreement can't be reached by opening day, so it looks like they have the unity thing figured out pretty well.
A new Collective Bargaining Agreement will be worked out eventually; the only question is how much damage the league is going to inflict on itself before that day comes. As much as the owners talk about how much the players have to lose, this is a year when MLS has new stadiums opening in Philadelphia and (near) New York City, season tickets in Seattle capped at 32,000, and a World Cup summer to help spur America's growing interest in the sport.
The players, on the other hand, have figured out that MLS isn't the only game in town. My first column for this web site a couple years ago was about the many quality American players who go off to play in places like Norway, or Belgium, for (slightly) bigger salaries and guaranteed contracts they can't get in the U.S., and that hasn't changed.
To their credit, the Quakes coaches and players appear to be handling business as usual. Have the CBA negotiations affected Frank Yallop? ""Not at all," the San Jose coach said, "I just get on with my job, and wait for an outcome."
"Being in England, we were kind of away from it," Joe Cannon said. "I think the guys are all curious about it, but we're all professionals."
"Our season's 10 days away, so until we hear different, we're getting ready for the season," Simon Elliott said. "(The negotiations are) neither here nor there. You could talk about people getting injured; it's the same thing. You never know what will happen."
Chris Wondolowski added, "We want to play. We want to be out there when the season starts. We want both sides to be happy though."
"It's kind of interesting to be a part of this, a little nerve wrecking. We've had such a positive pre season, we definitely don't want that to go to waste, so it's a big step coming up."
"We all know the issues, we all know what's going on," Wondolowski continued.
"Our reps our going to the meetings this week, so we'll be getting a day by day check in from them and see how it's going.
"I'm hoping each day that we'll get the call that yes, the CBA has been signed, and both sides are thrilled with it."
Heading home from frigid Kezar, I couldn't have said it better myself.