MLS Commissioner Don Garber went on the defensive Wednesday during a teleconference call with reporters and criticized US Men’s National Team Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s comments as being “detrimental to the league and the sport of soccer in the US” as well as criticizing Klinsmann for his treatment of Landon Donovan.
“i believe that Landon Donovan should have been in Brazil because his performance dictated it. I believe his treatment was inexcusable. I have concerns that his criticism of Michael [Bradley] is following that pattern.
“His comments are at odds of what we’re collectively trying to achieve together,
“I believe those comments (about the level of play in MLS) are wrong.”
Garber, obviously incensed by Klinsmann’s comments, argued that the league has been investing millions into the sport in the United States and Canada.
“It’s frustrating as hell,” added Garber.
“It sends the wrong message to young American players. I also think it’s sending the wrong message to players coming from overseas.”
The comments by Klinsmann which fueled the anger from Garber were published in Reuters:
“I made it clear with Clint (Dempsey)’s move back and Michael (Bradley)’s move back that it’s going to be very difficult to keep the same level that they experienced at the places where they were. It’s just reality. It’s just being honest.
“I think he’s been faced with a very, very difficult year, going from a Champions League club to a team, Toronto that seems like they’re not even going to qualify for the playoffs. It’s a huge disappointment.
“This league is getting better and stronger every year which we are all very proud about, and I want everyone to grow in this environment.
“But the reality also is that for both players, making that step means that you are not competitive environment that you were in before.”
Garber argued that there needs to be a deep alignment between US Soccer and MLS to stay focused on improving the sport in this country that has been aligned by the leaders in this sport.
Garber has sent a “strong” letter to Sunil Gulati, and sent a note to Klinsmann but hasn’t spoken to him regarding the comments prior to today’s teleconference call.
Out of all of the points where Garber was disappointed with Klinsmann for what he said, Garber seemed to be particularly struck by the comments regarding Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey.
“I would say I’ve got a very good relationship with Jurgen, which is why I was so shocked to see him publicly disparage Michael (Bradley) and Clint (Dempsey).
“Bradley would not have come back to MLS if he did not believe that it was in his competitive best interest to do so.
“I think it is incredibly judgmental for anybody to say that Michael Bradley or Clint Dempsey’s sole motivation to come back to MLS was (for money).”
Throughout the teleconference, there was no denying that Garber was upset by Klinsmann’s comments. However, it seemed that the Commissioner was on the defensive, trying to justify — as a business leader — why he feels the quality of MLS on the field is strong while, at the same time, sounding very concerned that the comments by the USMNT Head Coach could have a negative impact on the business side of MLS, namely the sponsors and future investors.
MLS is looking ahead to a bright year in 2015 when the new TV deal with FOX Sports, ESPN and Univision goes into effect, so the timing of Klinsmann’s comments is unfortunate for MLS as a business given the wave of enthusiasm it wants to build into next year particularly with the league spending millions on signing more high profile soccer players.
According to US Soccer Federation, Klinsmann is currently traveling and is unable to provide a response regarding Garber’s provocative comments.
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