From Bradley to Donovan, Garber hits out at Klinsmann


For the past several months, U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann has done a pretty consistent job of irritating the MLS front offices, starting with his treatment of Landon Donovan prior to the 2014 World Cup.

His most recent comments questioning Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley’s career choice to join MLS, however, pushed the league past the brink.

In an abruptly called teleconference Wednesday afternoon, MLS Commissioner Don Garber responded to Klinsmann’s statements in a strongly worded 25 minute rant, calling the coach’s words “detrimental to the league,” “wrong” and “personally infuriating.”

“I will do anything and everything to defend our league, our players and our owners,” he said.  “I don’t believe anyone is above the sport and I believe everybody needs to be accountable for their behavior, whether it is a commissioner, an owner, an athlete or a National Team coach.”

Klinsmann’s remarks centered around both Dempsey and Bradley.  Speaking to reporters prior to the national team’s encounter against Honduras, the U.S. boss once again reiterated his stance that promising young domestic players should be driven to find more competitive environments abroad.

“I made it clear with Clint’s move back and Michael’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,” Klinsmann said. He added that Bradley particularly “has to prove he hasn’t lost a bit.

“I think he’s been faced with a very, very difficult year going from a Champions League club [AS Roma] to a team, Toronto, that seems like they’re not even going to qualify for the playoffs. It’s a huge disappointment.”

The idea that an MLS environment could possibly produce a negative effect on the future of domestic players within the National Team particularly incensed Garber.

“Sending a negative message to any player, and obviously to US players, that signing with MLS will not be good for their career or good for their form, is incredibly detrimental to Major League Soccer,” he began. “We have invested since our founding billions and billions of dollars in creating a foundation for this league and for the sport, growing a fan base, commercializing the sport, creating a dynamic where it is part of the sports culture in this country, and creating a soccer nation in America.

“When we have a national team coach that, in essence, is telling players when they sign for our league that it is not best for their career, and frankly, that it wouldn’t be perceived well by the national team coach who is selecting the U.S. National Team, is incredibly damaging to our league.”

Garber went on to list the league’s efforts at player development, from the creation of academy programs, to their USL Pro relationships. He also reiterated the $30 million in player development programs invested by MLS this season.

“We are leading our development efforts,” he said. “To think we are not aligned with our national team coach is disappointing and personally infuriating.”

In fact, Garber argues, the USMNT would be “diminished” were it not for MLS development, citing the vast majority of the U.S. team has roots in the league — and one of their most vibrant talents, DeAndre Yedlin, is undeniably an MLS product.

Garber did not stop there. The league commissioner also waded in the waters of the Landon Donovan debate. Citing health concerns prohibiting him from speaking out earlier, Garber stated “I believe Landon should have been in Brazil because his performance dictated it”

“I have concerns that [Klinsmann’s] criticism, particularly of Michael, is following the same pattern.”

As a result of Klinsmann’s critique and his actions, Garber has sent a strongly worded letter to his “friend,” US soccer head Sunil Gulati, addressing his concerns. While not calling for revocation of Klinsmann’s position as Technical Director of U.S. Soccer, Garber is hoping his words are heeded, and actions will follow.

“I am confident he will understand and accept the severity of what is happening here and ensure our technical director is in line with the vision that he has publicly stated.”

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  • What a complete corporate hack Garber is. He should take Klinsmann’s critique & strive to make his league better, instead he whines like a corporate lackey who know absolutely nothing about how you build a real club or national team. It’s time we had soccer people make the decisions & the accountants & lawyers can sit in the back & do their jobs.

    • No way. He’s spot on. His leadership is why we have the best domestic soccer league we have ever had, one which has more promise and stability of those previous.

  • Garber has a monopoly over US soccer, its about time we “open up” the system and let all deserving teams play at the highest level…**** him and **** mls

    • Jeff

      Garber has a monopoly? What happened to the NASL and the USL? Yes MLS is the highest tier, but in a closed system that means nothing. If NASL had the fans and support MLS does it could pay players the same and be just as good if not better.

      Garber’s league is older and made smart moves when fighting against bankruptcy in the 90s and early 2000s so it is the most popular league in the country, but it does have competitors. Call MLS/NASl/USL an oligopoly if you want but MLS is not a monopoly.

      And actually pro/reg would just solidify Garber’s position as head of the highest league.

  • Tony

    Both klimsman and garber are wrong!!!! The media should blast both of them!!! Why go to Europe and ride the bench!!! Why not have a better product in mls!!!! Tired of both these clowns!!!!

    • Anthony J. Merced

      Don Garber is defending his league as any good commissioner should given the situation. Klinsmann is continuing a pattern of alienating his bosses which has plagued his managerial career going back to Bayern Munich. While MLS isn’t perfect and not on the level of European leagues it has cultivated some of the best US talent we’ve ever produced and Klinsmann should realize that before opening his mouth.

      • Wrong !

        So Wrong ,very wrong, all wrong.

        • Anthony, “wrong” just basically said you’re all “wrong”, including your statement that MLS isn’t perfect. That means “wrong” is saying the league IS perfect. Cool.

  • Sam U El

    JK doesn’t work for MLS he works for USSF and while Garber is on the Board he doesn’t owe MLS anything. Unlike other US Sports Soccer has governing bodies that stand above the league. While there is undoubtly a symbiotic relationship between MLS & USSF that doesn’t mean the league’s “vision” doesn’t get a rubber stamp of approval from USSF or the USMNT Coach. I also assume that it’s a safe bet that JK isn’t worried about filling vacant MLS managing positions when he is done with the USMNT.

    • Anthony J. Merced

      The league and federation both need each other. Neither one should be bashing or forced to defend their views publically. That I blame Klinsmann for since it all started after his comments.

      • Luis

        God forbid our national team coach want players that can play at the level of European countries. Took us three tries to beat Ghana. We couldn’t shut down Portugal and we were manhandled by Germany and Belgium. And stop saying “But, Landon Donovan is proof that MLS is great.” He’s the exception. Not the rule. Nobody questions his performance record, but unfortunately it’s hard to defend MLS when their younger stars get plucked to go abroad and the best talent in the league is mostly foreign DPs finishing their careers.

        • Luis

          Garber said himself he’s there to protect investors. It’s the business he’s worried about, not the national team. While a poor national team would admittedly hurt some business, it’s not his primary concern. JK is just trying to develop a national team that can compete with the world. And that does not require him to like MLS’s current format or performance level.

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