“We as an organization, the league, players, and of course the fans, everyone is happy and relieved we got this behind us and can focus on the most important stuff, the soccer,” Philadelphia Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz said on a conference call today. “For me personally, I have a unique view having been a player, and making a living playing soccer is not an easy thing. Having the different perspectives of the players’ side and management’s side, I couldn’t be happier with the way the two sides handled themselves. I’m delighted we got it done in the proper way. The relationship of the players, League and management will be that much stronger.”
While CBA negotiations were undoubtedly a distraction during preseason, all parties were cautiously optimistic that a deal would get done in the best interest of the sport in the US and a rapidly growing base of soccer fans in the country. Philadelphia Union players were faced with a particularly hard task: trying to ignore the distractions and come together as a young expansion team full of players that have never played together.
“I only want to say that it happens to be me on the call, but I’m just conduit to all the Philadelphia Union players,” added defender Danny Califf. “Obviously it’s been a pretty short relationship but throughout the process, management, Nick and (President) Tom (Veit) as well as the coaching staff, were receptive. Not that we always agreed, but it was a man-to-man conversation and it really helped a lot. [inline_node:4989]
“There was a lot of support and confidence to know I could speak for the players. At the end of the day we’re all a family here at the Union. It’s a tremendous thing going forward as far as player confidence. I’m happy it’s behind us. There’s no more cautiously optimistic. It’s Seattle, here we come. I’m so excited, so amped about the whole thing. It’s great.”
One of the most difficult parts of recent weeks and months has been the uncertainty. Should you feel excited or will it just be a bigger letdown if an agreement isn’t reached? While fans, players, technical staff and front office were all similarly unsure of what to think, preparation for First Kick moved along according to plan.
“One of the interesting things as we went through the process in the last few months and the last 30 days in particular was the way everyone kept moving forward,” commented Veit. “Our players, I applaud their commitment to do what they needed to do. For our staff and especially our fans, it was the same attitude. Everyone in the process, and I do include the fans in that process, we didn’t see people stop buying tickets, didn’t see fans stop buying plane tickets to Seattle and didn’t see the players stop training.”
Despite match results in Tampa that didn’t reflect the type of hard work being put it by the players and technical staff, Philadelphia Union accomplished what it needed to in preseason, specifically bonding as a team and learning how to play with one another. The club hopes that progress equates to three points in just five days time.
"When Tom and I went to Tampa, no one was holding back,” Sakiewicz said emphatically. “They were very focused on preparing for an important game in Seattle. We’re exceptionally proud that our guys didn’t allow the distraction to get in the way. It’s a real testament to the commitment to our club and to winning in Seattle next Thursday.”
Califf confirmed what Sakiewicz and Veit witnessed, but there’s no doubt that everyone is a lot happier with all doubt eliminated.