Sounders defender Brad Evans, who was a Players’ Union representative during the Major League Soccer Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations prior to this season, reflected Monday morning at Starfire Sports Complex on the deal’s impact less than a season into a five-year deal.
Goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and the L.A. Galaxy parted ways last week, and though Evans hadn’t heard Penedo’s explanation that the split was mostly due to a contract dispute, it didn’t surprise Seattle’s captain:
“Right now, that’s always going to be the case,” Evans said. “The way that the league is set up right now, they tell us there’s no money, but the reality is that there is millions and millions of dollars being spent on a core group of players. Maybe that’s what the league needs right now for its growth, they think. But I think, and I think (Penedo) would agree, that if you perform well, you should be paid accordingly. If you’re a good enough player to make an extra 100, 150,000, you should be paid accordingly.
“It’s easy for a Central American or a European player to do that. For Americans, it’s almost impossible. There’s nowhere else for us to go. We’re kind of handcuffed into this situation. We have to be strong. We have to be unified. When it comes our turn to say, ‘Yeah, we’re performing just as good or above what a one-million-dollar, two-million-dollar designated player is making, we’ve got to put our foot down and say, ‘Alright, I deserve this.’
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“Maybe that was (Penedo’s) stance. … The way the league is set up, that’s what we’re getting right now.”
On whether it is frustrating for the established MLS veterans to see the reported figures being paid to the league’s new Designated Players:
“Of course we all want to make more money. We all think we deserve to be at par with players around us. But we also need to realize that we’re in this league by choice. If we wanted to leave, I guess I could leave and take my chance overseas. Like I said, we’re kind of handcuffed here. And they know that. There will be a time when we need to take a stand and say, ‘No. I deserve to be paid X amount, and this is why. List the reasons, A, B and C.’ Compare yourself to other players in the league.
“Are we getting there? I think we’re getting closer. Personally, I’m very happy to be here and I feel that my salary is at par with other players of my level. But also, when I go to the national team, I’m the lowest-paid player there. It is what it is. I don’t get upset about it.”
On looking out for the players lower on the pay scale:
“When we all look back at this CBA, it wasn’t what we wanted. I think we handcuffed ourselves into a situation. I think Don Garber can look back and say he got the fair end of the deal. Those guys obviously got the better end of the deal. But come four-and-a-half more years, we’re going to have to put our foot down. We found out, I think, through enough social media that all of the fans were behind us, even after the fact. A lot of them said, ‘You guys got screwed. Why didn’t you stop?’ There’s a lot to think about. We have to get this group unified enough.
“In five years, the salary will go up a certain amount, and maybe guys will feel more comfortable with taking a break from soccer, no matter how long that might be.
“We’ve also got to be more aware of what we want and the tactics on how to get that. We’ll be more prepared next time around.
“At this point, it is what it is. If you start thinking too much about this stuff, you lose focus about what’s going on on the field.”