Twellman: MLS deal is a win-win
Taylor Twellman drew on history lessons as a Revolution player representative in collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Twellman knew from the experience of his predecessors an MLS players’ strike should be avoided, but he also realized the importance of being united.
And though the MLS Players’ Union only gained modest concessions from management as a five-year CBA was approved Saturday, Twellman believes great progress was made.
“Let’s be honest, when the strike vote came out in public and they saw the players were unified, they thought we needed to be taken seriously,’’ Twellman said after the announcement in Washington. “And [commissioner] Don Garber and the league took us seriously. Without the numbers and the strike vote, I don’t know if we would be sitting here today. Give both sides credit, both sides are winners and the sport continues to grow. But we won’t know how big this day is until we look back on it a few years from now and the league is cranking.’’
Garber took a hands-on approach to negotiations and noted the players “have some pretty darned good ideas.’’ The players apparently appreciated Garber’s presence and, for one of the few times since the league was founded, got the feeling their views were taken into account. The result is the league’s 15th season will begin on time when the expansion Philadelphia Union visits Seattle Thursday.
Twellman recently turned 30 and, in many ways, is wise beyond his years after having absorbed lessons from a family of professional athletes. Tim Twellman, Taylor’s father, and two brothers played in the North American Soccer League, which was devastated by labor strife in the late ‘70s. His grandfather, Jim Delsing, played for the New York Yankees in the ’50s when “there was no free agency, and baseball players were working two jobs in the offseason.
“And I talked to my uncles and my dad,’’ Twellman said. “No matter what, no one wins with a strike or lockout.’’
The minimum salary, set at $24,000 when the league started, has remained absurdly low. That number changes to about $40,000, which, allowing for inflation, is analagous to baseball’s $7,500 minimum wage of the late ’60s. According to Garber, “most players’ contracts will be guaranteed.’’ And, there will be limited free agency, though the league will not use that terminology, in the form of a “re-entry’’ draft of players not under contract.
“Like Don Garber said, this is an evolution of the system and not a revolution of the system,’’ Twellman said. “In five more years there will be more room for movement and guaranteed contracts. This is all part of the process.
“Are we a league that needs and sustains free agency? I don’t think so. But the re-entry draft and player movement are positive things. In ’02 when I came into the league, we had just lost Tampa Bay and Miami and if you said 10 years down the road we would have more players’ rights — this starts the process of every five years, everything evolves.’’
Flamengo tied the game, 2-2, on a late goal by Adriano. Caio was in the starting lineup only because Uruguayan Sebastian Abreu was unavailable, but he has shown an ability to hang with the big boys, though he is listed at 155 pounds, not much more than he weighed after leaving Nantucket after his sophomore season.
“He has definitely made a quick ascent through the ranks,’’ Nantucket coach Rich Brannigan said of Caio. “From Division 4 Eastern Massachusetts to a professional career. He has the belief in himself and the skills and knowledge to back it up.’’
Caio has definitely taken a different route than most pro players. His father, Luis “Lulu’’ Canedo, had moved to Nantucket after having played for Volta Redonda in Brazil, bringing along a 10-year-old Caio. He soon impressed his fourth-grade teacher, who happened to be Janet Brannigan, Rich’s mother, with his ball skills.
“She called to tell me about this kid who was juggling the ball,’’ Brannigan said. “In fact, he juggled it for the whole recess.’’
Brannigan realized something special was happening.
“You hear about good little kids all the time,’’ said Brannigan, who played at St. Michael’s College in Vermont. “But it’s amazing what he was able to absorb in Brazil in the short amount of time he was there. From the ages of 4 to 9, he was able to take in an amazing amount of Brazilian-style soccer, then move to a totally different culture in the US, where you’re not immersed in soccer every day. He was able to go back to Brazil after being away from that intense soccer culture for most of his most important development years and jump right back into it.’’
Brannigan said NCAA Division 1 schools were becoming interested in Caio before he departed.
“He was confident and believed in himself,’’ Brannigan said of Caio. “On his birth certificate it lists his father’s profession as professional soccer player. It was definitely in his blood, it was his passion.’’
Nantucket reached the finals of the South bracket, losing to Old Rochester in Caio’s final high school game. Nantucket has a new star, Salvadorean Emerson Guzman, who helped the team advance to the first round last season.
“We can only dream about what we would have done if he stayed,’’ Brannigan said of Caio. “But the energy he brought, the effervescence, is contagious and people see it and want to be a part of it.’’
Caio, nicknamed “The Talisman’’ by fans, will be going to another of his former homes this weekend as Botafogo visits Volta Redonda.