Obviously, Red Bull New York midfielder Connor Lade would rather talk about where — and how much — he’s going to play this season. But with Major League Soccer’s 20th season set to start this weekend, the MLS Players Union and the league are still negotiating a new collective-bargaining agreement.
Yes, the season might be caught up in a labor struggle — and the big issue is free agency, which doesn’t truly exist in MLS.
Midfielder Dax McCarty and goalkeeper Luis Robles are the Red Bulls’ representatives at the negotiations, which have been taking place in Washington D.C. Though their teammates and head coach Jesse Marsch all expressed confidence that the season would start on Friday as scheduled, the strain on everyone was palpable. Marsch admitted he’s been trying to support McCarty, a veteran starter, as much as possible, both by providing physical workouts and an emotional sounding board.
“I want the players to be in a good situation, both financially and professionally, so that they’re happy, and they’re ready to give everything they have every day,” Marsch said after practice today. “We’ve made steps, and we’ve grown. You just want to see that everybody benefits from that, and a big part of that is the players. The players are the product.”
Lade, a 5-foot-6 Morristown graduate who also started at center back for St. John’s for four years, has played all over the midfield and at outside back for the Red Bulls during preseason. Former Morris Hills goalkeeper Rafael Diaz, another St. John’s product, is also training with the Red Bulls — though he seems likely to end up with the new United Soccer League affiliate. Bryan Gallego, a Kinnelon graduate who signed with Portland last winter, has also been on trial with the Red Bulls.
“I’m a seasoned veteran now, on this team, but I still feel like one of the young guys,” said Lade, 25, who still lives in Morristown. “I still want to keep that versatility. Wherever Jesse and the coaching staff sees me, I’m going to embrace that and give my hardest every day. I’ve always prided myself on my versatility … Wherever that spot may be, I’m going to give it my all.”
The Daily Record’s look at Major League Soccer’s 20th season — with input from both Lade and Montville alumnus Dilly Duka, now with Montreal — will be published later this week.