The MLS players’ union today issued a statement labeling FC Cincinnati’s release of former FCC striker Tommy Heinemann and its actions following as “deplorable and well below the standards necessary to succeed in MLS.”
Heinemann signed with FCC on Dec. 5 but participated in just one preseason workout. The club released him on Jan. 31, citing a failed entry physical. Highland Sports Management, Heinemann’s agent, said in a tweet the same day Heinemann was released that Heinemann has been healthy since the end of last season when he helped the San Francisco Deltas win the NASL championship.
After contract dispute hearings, the USL ruled in Heinemann’s favor on Feb. 22, essentially ruling FCC was in breach of contract upon Heinemann’s release.
The statement issued by the MLS Players Association said: “Despite having failed to meet its obligation to conduct a physical examination prior to signing Heinemann, and despite repeated medical assurances regarding his ability to continue to play at the same high level, the club attempted to force Tom to accept a pay cut because of a past knee injury. When these efforts failed, the club moved to void the contract entirely, in clear violation of its terms.”
Further, the union statement said Heinemann “was compliant with his contractual obligations, healthy and prepared to perform on the field in 2018… .”
When the USL issued its ruling, it “ordered FC Cincinnati to perform its obligations under the contract,” the union statement said. “The club has refused to comply with his order and has taken the matter to a costly and time-consuming formal arbitration, thus forcing Tom to devote even more resources to protect himself from the club’s breach of his contract.”
As an MLS expansion finalist, FCC is still awaiting an expansion decision, allowing the club to enter the league if selected. Heinemann played with MLS sides Columbus Crew and Vancouver Whitecaps FC from 2011-2013 and is a former union member.
FCC issued its own statement in response, saying: “We strongly disagree with both the MLSPA and USL’s positions and are looking forward to presenting our full case to the neutral American Arbitration Association as part of the dispute resolution process outlined in the USL Standard Contract, which begins later this month. We understand that the decision rendered during arbitration will be binding for both parties.”
After his release from FCC, Heinemann signed with USL rival Penn FC on March 29 at what the union said is “a significantly lower salary than what he is owed by FC Cincinnati.” Heinemann started for Penn FC in its 0-0 draw at Pittsburgh Riverhounds on Saturday and played 90 minutes before being subbed out in stoppage time.