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Fire’s Brandt Bronico hopes players, league develop partnership

Bronico, along with teammates CJ Sapong and Jeremiah Gutjahr, represented the Fire during the players’ negotiations with MLS to resume the season. Before an agreement was reached to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement to pave the way for a restart, the league threatened to lock out the players.

The Fire’s Brandt Bronico takes part in training.
Courtesy of the Fire

Fire midfielder/defender Brandt Bronico is excited to be training with his teammates and looking forward to restarting the 2020 season. That doesn’t mean he has forgotten the recent labor battle between the players and MLS.

“It’s definitely going to take a little bit [to get past],” Bronico told the Sun-Times. “Hopefully the wounds from the process can heal over time and we can develop into an actual partnership with the league, because without that, I don’t think the league will ever reach its full potential.”

Bronico, along with teammates CJ Sapong and Jeremiah Gutjahr, represented the Fire during the players’ negotiations with MLS to resume the season. Before an agreement was reached to ratify a new collective-bargaining agreement to pave the way for a restart, the league threatened to lock out the players.

“It’s not something that I did without a lot of thought and without a lot of concern and a lot of understanding as to what impact that would have on our players and on the negotiation,” commissioner Don Garber said on June 3 when the sides came to an agreement, “but it was something as the leader of this league that I believed was necessary in order for us to get to the point today that we have reached an agreement.”

How the agreement came about left a bad taste in players’ mouths and was certainly an education about the business side of soccer. But that agreement also came as social unrest was intensifying after the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and those events were cited by both Garber and the players when the deal was formalized.

Bronico alluded to the social situation when discussing the deal.

“I don’t think there were really any winners in this negotiation,” Bronico said. “We kind of just recognized that there’s more serious and more [important] problems in the world right now than this league and this sport. Ultimately, I think, as players we recognized that to be a force for change and with what’s happening in our communities, our platform would be bigger and our voices will be louder if we’re on the field playing.”

Now that Bronico and the players are reunited, they’re getting ready for the MLS is Back Tournament, scheduled to start July 8 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida.

On Monday, the Fire began full training after three months apart and Bronico said he never has been part of a format like this one, with players progressing from individual and small-group workouts to full practices. But even if the path getting there was bumpy, Bronico is glad to be back doing something normal and soccer-related.

“At the end of the day, we’re back with guys that we love and care about and doing what we love in a somewhat normal setting,” Bronico said. “I think that’s the biggest thing that we enjoy the most.”