National Writer: Charles Boehm

MLS players and coaches react to Uvalde tragedy: "We need to come together"

Players, coaches, clubs and others across MLS spoke out on the shock, horror and pain of the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas this week, in which an 18-year-old gunman murdered 19 elementary-school students and two teachers and injured 17 others.

Most also urged politicians to take meaningful action amid the rising carnage of myriad such acts across the United States.

“It’s horrific. People got to get off their a** and start doing something about it, instead of pointing fingers. There’s got to be some common sense, OK – this is happening a lot, so fix it,” said Seattle Sounders FC head coach Brian Schmetzer during a Thursday media availability. “And that's to all the politicians out there. And then if the politicians can’t fix this, then we as voters need to vote people out that don't want to address the issue. How about that? Because it was terrible. It was horrible, terrible, saddening. Shouldn't happen.”

Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei also addressed the tragedy at length, including his experiences growing up in Switzerland, where most households have guns due to the nation’s compulsory military service policy, yet gun violence rates are a fraction of those in the US.

“I feel a lot of anger that we’re still in the exact same place,” Frei said on Wednesday. “Every freaking time, it’s ‘thoughts and prayers.’ It doesn’t mean s**t, honestly. It doesn’t help anything. We need some actual action.

“We need to elect people who are going to do something about it, but the people who have been elected to do something about it need to do something as well,” he added. “It’s not a bargaining chip to get people to vote more for you, it’s for you to go do something. Don’t use this to rile up your base and put down the opposing base. Use this to actually change something because people are actually dying. Kids are dying.”

The carnage hits closest to home for Texas’ three MLS clubs, who have joined together along with NWSL side Houston Dash to launch the “United for Uvalde” initiative, which seeks to honor the victims and raise funds for their families and the wider community.

Austin FC’s co-owner and “minister of culture” Matthew McConaughey is a Uvalde native who shared his personal reactions on his social media channels. ATX supporters group Los Verdes is also holding a fundraiser for the victims, which as of Friday afternoon had raised more than $200,000 and counting.

After Inter Miami’s narrow US Open Cup loss to Orlando City SC on Wednesday night, head coach Phil Neville opened his postgame press conference with heartfelt remarks about “the disgusting, horrific events that happened in Texas” on behalf of his players and staff.

“We want to send our unbelievable condolences to the children and their families and the people that lost their lives in Texas. I think it’s affected us all over the last 24 hours, especially those with children that drop their little babies off at school and are now probably wondering whether it’s safe to do so,” said the former England international. “Our prayers and thoughts are with them at this horrific time. It puts everything in perspective, really, when you lose a game like we have tonight. There’s more serious issues going on in the world, particularly in this country.

“We’ve been deeply affected by it. I think the words of [Golden State Warriors coach] Steve Kerr probably resonated with everybody – it’s got to stop. It’s got to stop.”

Others across MLS have also referenced Kerr’s searing statements after his team’s NBA Playoffs game against the Dallas Mavericks Tuesday night, expressing their solidarity and dismay with the persistence of the status quo.

“I don’t want to speak too much because as a country we’ve done enough talking and not enough acting,” said Miami fullback DeAndre Yedlin, who became a father in September. “This has happened countless times where our kids are losing their lives to stupidity and it’s a tragedy. Especially having a daughter, it really makes you think if you can’t even send your kid to school and feel safe with them there, then what is this world coming to?”

Real Salt Lake head coach Pablo Mastroeni was clearly gripped by emotion as he addressed the matter during a Wednesday press conference.

“I can’t for a second begin to even try to empathize with the parents of the kids that were lost,” he said. “Because when my kids get hurt, my heart jumps into my throat. I think it’s a pivotal time in history to really make change, to allow young American kids to go to school feeling confident about who they are, who they want to become, their futures, and I think we as parents provide that type of confidence knowing that there are safeguards in place that will not allow these situations to arise in the future.

“It is a tragic time for us,” Mastroeni added, “and I think that we need to come together as a country and really put all of the political stuff aside and think about what we want for the future of our kids.”