Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber called a press conference today to take a hardline stance against the recent comments made by US Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann regarding Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and the standard of play in Major League Soccer.
“Making that decision to go from Roma, a Champions League team, to Toronto, that now seems like they’re not even qualifying for the playoffs, it’s a huge disappointment,” Klinsmann said of Bradley on Monday.
The National Team coach went on to say that he believes the moves of Bradley and Dempsey back to MLS were financially motivated and contributed to a dip in form. “To say Dempsey and Bradley’s form have diminished, I don’t believe that’s true,” Garber said. “If our Technical Director for our country is basically saying, ‘you come home to MLS you’ll end up like Michael and Clint,’ that sends the wrong message. . . . If he wants to talk to Michael he should do so privately, but don’t use a global media platform to do that.”
[Related: Klinsmann criticizes MLS, Bradley move]
[Related: Twitter reacts to Garber’s press conference]
Citing the “indisputable contribution” that 10 MLS players had on last summer’s World Cup success, Garber described Klinsmann’s failure to believe in MLS as “frustrating as hell.” But the comments didn’t merely bother Garber, they were just plain “wrong.” Citing the league’s development of DeAndre Yedlin, Garber said Klinsmann’s conclusion that “if you play in MLS it will negatively impact your form” was “patently untrue.”
Garber also expressed concern that Klinsmann’s comments of Dempsey and Bradley could end putting them into a similar situation where Landon Donovan found himself this summer. “It’s concerning to me that it seems to be following a pattern that begun with Landon. . . . I believe that Landon should’ve been in Brazil. Not because he eared it but because his performance dictated it. . . . I have concerns that his criticism of Michael is following that pattern”
Bottom line, Garber said, was that the time had come for Klinsmann to “embrace the vision” that US Soccer and MLS remain “inextricably linked” in order to grow the game in the US. “We need deep alignment with everyone who is an influencer in the sport,” Garber said. “I not only ask this but I insist that everyone who is paid to work in this sport that they align with the vision… And I don’t think the comments from Klinsmann did this. . . . I believe his comments are at odds with what we collectively believe what we’re trying to achieve together.”
When asked whether the time had come for Klinsmann to reconsider his position as Technical Director and coach, Garber stopped short of calling for the axe. “For the future of the sport, Jurgen needs to embrace the vision and for him to publicly state issues he has with MLS is not something that will allow him to effectively serve the role as coach or Technical Director. I am by no way saying what Sunil should be doing with Jurgen. That’s between Sunil and Jurgen.”