Beitashour hoping MLS season starts Saturday

With MLS and the league’s players locked in CBA negotiations, Whitecaps hope Saturday’s season opener versus Toronto FC will go ahead.
VANCOUVER – With this weekend’s start of the new MLS season hanging in the balance, Vancouver Whitecaps FC’s players union representative Steven Beitashour remained hopeful a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) can be reached between the league and the MLS Players Union.

The highly anticipated 20th season of MLS is set to begin Friday night when MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy host Chicago Fire. That leaves about 72 hours for both MLS and its club owners to reach an agreement with the players, with the issue of free agency proving to be the obstacle in a new deal being agreed.

Having returned from CBA negotiations in Washington, D.C., over the weekend, Beitashour told reporters after Tuesday’s training session at the University of British Columbia that a strike vote by the players would take place late Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, if need be.

However, the Iranian international remained hopeful a new agreement could be reached, thus allowing the 2015 season to begin as scheduled, with Vancouver set to host Canadian rivals Toronto FC in front of an expected sell-out crowd at BC Place on Saturday afternoon.

“We are getting down to the wire and it’s just one of those things,” Beitashour said. “Both parties aren’t going to be 100 per cent happy, but it’s a negotiation, so we’ve just got to keep working on it and hopefully, we can get to something.”

With plenty at stake for all concerned going into this new MLS campaign, Beitashour insisted the players remained united in achieving their goals from this new CBA.

“Right now, we’re holding strong, and we feel confident about what we’re going to get,” said the Whitecaps right back. “Everyone’s united, everyone’s together. Either we play together or we don’t play together, so that’s the beauty of it. We’re all in this together.”

‘Caps goalkeeper David Ousted echoed Beitashour’s sentiments, with the Dane claiming the players are being reasonable in what they are asking for in the new CBA.

“I don’t think anybody wants a strike, but we as players right now are fighting for what we consider are some basic rights,” Ousted said. “Everybody wants a deal, but there has to be some terms that we as players can agree upon. “Everybody wants progress and that’s what we’re looking for. Everybody wants to play Saturday, but like I said, we’ve got some basic things we need fulfilled. I’m still positive about the talks that are going on and still hopeful.”

With uncertainty that the new season will start on time, the situation is less than ideal preparation for Carl Robinson and his Whitecaps coaching staff, who are looking to hit the ground running when the Whitecaps host TFC this weekend.

“We’re fully prepared to go Saturday. ‘Fingers crossed’ or ‘touch on wood’ that we’ll be ready to go because the guys are ready, fitness levels are good, and you could see that about 10 minutes after the warm-up today,” Robinson said. “I understand it (the labor issues) from both points of view, I really do with what’s going on, but it’s difficult for any coach to comment.

“I hope they come to an agreement because everyone misses out really (with a work stoppage) – the supporters, you guys (the media), me watching my players, so hopefully there can be something sorted and we go ahead with the season because the league is growing each year.”