Fans, Players Ready to Play Ball
Quakes fans walked away from Buck Shaw Stadium feeling a bit uneasy about what they saw on the field after a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers Saturday night, but the collective subconscious was overjoyed: No strike.
Some awoke to news reports that the strike had been averted. Others didn't find out until 10 minutes prior to kickoff during a question and answer session with Quakes General Manager John Doyle and Executive Vice President David Alioto. However, the reaction was consistent, a sigh of relief and a broad smile.
"I'm ecstatic. I need a season to look forward to," Don Gagliardi, an attorney and president of the Soccer Silicon Valley non-profit group, said. "News of the CBA made tonight's match more enjoyable knowing that it wouldn't be the last game of the season."
Fans from all over the Bay Area echoed Gagliardi's sentiment. To the season ticket holders in attendance, Saturday's announcement of a new 5-year collective bargaining agreement affirmed their hopes that a compromise would be found.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber spoke to members of the media via live teleconference streamed online at MLSnet.com Saturday morning. Details of the new agreement were't immediately available.
"Let the kids watch some soccer. That's exactly it," Brian Pelton of Sunnyvale said. "And my wife gets a night off."
Pelton, a Quakes season ticket holder, was in the stands with his sons, Keagan (7) and Donovan (6) as well as his soccer-passionate wife Nicole. Quakes matches are a fixture in their lives, a sporting touch to togetherness that would have been absent if the player's decided to strike.
"They don't have to worry about anything for about five more years now," Earthquakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon said.
Cannon and teammate Chris Leitch walked to the Quakes bench mid-match after deplaning at San Jose International Airport. The duo represented San Jose players during negotiations in New York City and debriefed their teammates following Saturday's match.
"[The new deal] means a lot for us," Cannon said. "It will mean a lot more for the middle class guys that have been squeezed out in the past, giving them more rights and freedoms. Those were the guys we were really looking to aim at and we're happy we could help them."
Quakes players peppered Cannon and Leitch with questions on the way to the locker room following the final whistle. The team held a closed-doors meeting to discuss the details of the new agreement, one that promises to improve player's salaries, among other changes, while maintaining the framework that has made Major League Soccer a success.
San Jose's coaching staff was in the locker room for the post-game CBA discussion. Despite threats of a strike, third-year Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop maintained his stoic demeanor throughout the process.
"We have a season," Yallop said. "The players are happy and obviously the owners and then the league's happy with what's gone on. I always felt it was going to be resolved and wasn't going to be an issue so I'm very happy."
In the end, isn't that what it's all about? We - players, coaches and league officials as well as die hard fans, casual observers and the next generation of soccer in the United States - have a season.