Whitecaps FC sporting director Axel Schuster was joined by players Bryan Meredith, Jake Nerwinski, and Andy Rose on Wednesday afternoon to address the media via video conference, tackling a number of topics that have been on the forefront of the news in recent days.
The media availability came on the heels of the announcement that MLS and MLS Players Association approved a new collective bargaining agreement. The agreement will run through 2025 and outlines a resumption of the 2020 season with an Orlando-based tournament.
“We are all happy that we finally found this agreement and I have to thank all the parties that they made it happen in the end,” Schuster said. “It's very important for us now to go back to business and to start with training again tomorrow and to prepare ourselves for a tournament. That is something exciting we now have in target.”
While the majority of details surrounding the tournament are yet to be announced, 'Caps players are looking ahead and excited to pick things up where they left off.
“We want to continue that upward trajectory,” Rose said of Vancouver’s victory over LA Galaxy on March 7. “We feel really good about our group and are confident of what we can do moving forward. Just like you guys, we can't wait for football to be back.”
Continuing that uptrend is important for many as Meredith looks at the new development as a much-needed change of pace.
“I think we're full steam ahead,” Meredith said. “To be honest, I'm most excited to get there playing with our teammates again. In the last two weeks, we've been doing individual training sessions and it gets a little bit methodical. To get back out there with the guys and see them every day is a lot of fun. That's what I'm most excited for.”
For others, such as Nerwinski, the tournament in Orlando will serve not only as a return to play but also as a showcase of what Whitecaps FC are capable of. Confident of his team, Nerwinski is excited to travel to Florida and put on a show.
“We're all just very excited to do what we love again,” Nerwinski said. “This is something that we’ve wanted to do since we were little, we got the ability to be professional footballers and what we want to do is play. We have a great team. We have a good bond between all of us and we're excited to show the US and Canada and MLS what we got because I think we have something special here. I can't wait to get back in.”
BLACK LIVES MATTER
In am earlier video conference on Wednesday, MLS commissioner Don Garber addressed the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests that erupted around the world demanding an end to systematic racism against the Black community.
"We as a league, and I think I can also speak as a leader in this sport, and I can speak on behalf of our players and our clubs, that we need to go further,” Garber said. “And we are committed to doing that, and all I could say is that you should stay tuned for some of the things that we're going to work league-wide to try to develop some things where we can impact some meaningful change.”
Whitecaps FC issued a statement on Monday committing to be a more prominent voice in the community in order to champion equality and social justice.
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Whitecaps FC players voiced their support of the Black community during Wednesday's call.
"It starts with getting people talking about it, it's a good first step. Over the past few days, I've been trying to figure out how I can help move this conversation forward," said Meredith. "I'm very sad for every community that is going through this, the people feel like they're not being heard by our government and our police forces."
“As a white 25-year-old man, I will never be able to comprehend what it's like for Black people living in the world today,” Nerwinski said. “I'll never know the fear, I'll never know the anger of what it's like to walk the streets and always have to look over your back.
“What I can do is try to understand, try to educate myself and what I can do is use my voice," Nerwinski added. “I think that that's the most important thing right now, for people to step up, to use their voice, to change this systematic racism that is plaguing the world today. We must love each other for who we are as people, no matter the color of our skin, or the race, or where we come from.”
"My initial reaction to call one of my closest friends, Jalil Anibaba who plays for Nashville," Rose shared. "It's not fair for me to ask him to educate me, but I was at a loss. I needed to hear his views and just listen and learn. Educate ourselves and try to inflict real change."
While acknowledging the difficulties that many people have been combating recently, Nerwinski noted what soccer means to the community and how the game’s unifying qualities will shine bright.
“There are more important things in the world that are going on today,” Nerwinski said. “Having football back on TV, getting games in is important because it brings everyone together. It brings people together through all walks of life: different race, different color, different religion. It doesn't matter. We all come together because we love the sport, and we fight for each other.”