The Deseret News has a report this morning which quotes Real Salt lake owner Dave Checketts as saying that if MLS players strike the owners will do "something very aggressive and very different" in response.
A followup article, posted close to midnight MDT, adds fuel to the fire.
"I just came from a meeting with several owners and the commissioner down here in Los Angeles, and we know exactly what we'll do... We have a plan if the players strike"
While refusing to specify exactly what the plan is, he said the owners:
"will take action that will make life very difficult."
In case the players weren't hearing him, he made it clear exactly who he was addressing:
"I just hope the players understand the implication of the threats they're making to strike because if they do in fact go on strike, then that forces the owners to do something very aggressive and very different."
He failed to elaborate, but certainly his cryptic comment raises the suspicion that what he's talking about is replacement games.
The writer adds, without further explanation:
"Owners are more likely to field teams of scabs than they are to give into the players demands for free agency."
That would seem to gibe with sudden flood of released players from the various teams, which can be interpreted a couple of different ways.
It was widely reported but little mentioned a couple of weeks ago when the teams waived the mandatory cut down date.At the time, the reason given was that there was no CBA in place.
It was difficult to see the connection however, particularly since MLS had said that they intended to proceed as if the CBA was still in place and, in any case, I don't recall seeing any reference to the roster cut down date in the old agreement.
Did the league allow the teams to keep players in training that they would otherwise have cut so that they would be available for duty during a strike? A guy who was released a few days ago, rather than last month, is game fit, knows the system and also knows that he's got nothing much to lose - and possibly something to gain - by crossing the picket line.
Wildass speculation based on virtually nothing? Absolutely.
But Checketts isn't a man given to idle blather, and with him saying that the owners have a plan to do "something very aggressive and very different", well, there aren't a lot of other options.
Checketts, normally considered one of the more player-oriented owners in the entire league, sounded anything but conciliatory:
"In a league where we are struggling for relevance, and building new fans and a league that's only 15 years old, a strike would not only be devastating, but I think it might represent the end of the league as we know it.
"It's not in my hands now. The commissioner is at the table. The owners are absolutely unified in supporting him"
And in another in the growing number of signs that the union may have overplayed their hand:
"(It's) the threat of a strike hanging over us we don't respond to very well"
And of course the league is most certainly cranking up the pressure, this being the fourth owner statement in as many days. The only question is who are they trotting out next? Anselmi? Sakiewicz? Chung?
If the players thought that making that strike vote deal public was a good way to put some pressure on the owners, it appears that they miscalculated in a big, big way. The owners now sound pretty pissed off.
Stay tuned. Just when you thought this couldn't possibly get any wilder, we could be in for a bumpy weekend.