Still plenty to do, union says, as MLS talks enter final week before season

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- "We have a lot of work to do," an MLS Players Union executive board member said as negotiations between the union and MLS on a new collective bargaining agreement enters the last week before the scheduled start of the season.

Todd Dunivant spoke to reporters following the LA Galaxy's 3-2 preseason defeat to the San Jose Earthquakes, a day when the Quakes played in their brand new venue, Avaya Stadium, for the first time.

Meetings are scheduled to be held alongside mediators from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service starting on Sunday in Washington, D.C., and Dunivant indicated he as well as other player representatives would be in attendance.

"Both sides are motivated, there's no doubt about that," he said. "Both sides know the stakes, so there's no doubt that this is going to be a big week for everybody, and for soccer in this country. Both sides are excited to get back to the table."

Free agency remains the big sticking point in the talks -- one players say they are willing to strike over -- with minimum salaries and the size of the salary cap also among the big issues. The season is scheduled to begin on Friday when the defending MLS Cup champion Galaxy host the Chicago Fire.

When asked if he was packing for a full week of talks, Dunivant said, "Yeah, we're ready to do whatever it takes. We obviously have our principles and we have what we're fighting for, and the league -- you heard the commissioner's comments -- they want to get a deal done too as well. It's going to be an interesting week."

Dunivant added that last week's meetings yielded progress on some issues, though he declined to get into specifics.

"We're still talking," he said. "I think last time it was a similar situation where it went down to the wire, and I don't think anybody expected anything differently. We've got a long way to go and a lot of work to do. Both sides know that going into this week."

In a week that saw Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen incur a record $150,000 fine from MLS for statements he made about the CBA talks -- where he said that discussing free agency was a "waste-of-time conversation" -- Dunivant struck a conciliatory tone, noting the work that has been put into growing MLS by everyone involved.

"The league continues to grow," he said. "I know a lot of people want it to grow faster. I think everyone wants it to grow faster, including the league itself. But this league has continued on its slow and steady pace. Big strides have been made and stadiums like this, atmosphere like this, are a testament to that work this league and these players and these owners have put in. It's a group effort without a doubt."