Major League Soccer president Don Garber fired back Wednesday at critical comments by US national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann about the league and its impact on players.
Klinsmann addressed the decisions by US standouts Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley to return from Europe to play in the North American league this week by saying they would have to prove the switch has not diminished their skills.
Garber called those remarks “incredibly damaging” to MLS.
“I’m demanding that he refrain from making comments that are critical of our players and damaging to our league,” Garber said.
“Jurgen’s comments are very detrimental to the league. They are detrimental to the sport of soccer in America. Not only are they detrimental, they are wrong.”
Klinsmann noted that Bradley has returned to play for a Toronto club that will miss the playoffs for an eighth consecutive season.
“Making that decision to go from Roma, a Champions League team, to now Toronto, a team that it seems like they’re not even qualifying for the playoffs, it’s a huge disappointment,” Klinsmann said.
“You adjust yourself to whatever environment you are in, so he had to adjust to the environment he’s with in Toronto, instead of maybe an environment that plays Champions League football. It’s down to him and his environment to see what level he is capable to play.”
Klinsmann also touched on Clint Dempsey’s move from the English Premier League to the MLS Seattle Sounders.
“I made it clear with Clint’s move back and his move back that it’s going to very difficult for them to keep the same level that they experienced at the places where they were. It’s just being honest,” Klinsmann said.
“Now making the step back, I totally get it. It’s a huge financial offer, it is also connected to many other elements, and this league is getting better and stronger every year. Which we are all very proud about. And I want everybody to grow in this environment.
“But reality also is for both players making that step means that you are not in the same competitive environment as you were before. And so it’s not easy for Michael, and it’s not going to be easy in the future.”
Garber also second-guessed Klinsmann’s decision not to include Landon Donovan, a standout for the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy, on the US World Cup roster. The all-time US scoring leader played his final international match for the American side last Friday.
“I believe Landon should have been in Brazil,” Garber said. “His performance dictated it.
“His treatment was inexcusable. I have concerns that (Klinsmann’s) criticism, particularly of Michael, is following that pattern.”
Garber hopes to attract top US talent to the league, which launched in 1996 and will add teams in New York and Orlando next year to reach 21 active clubs.
“Sending a message to any player and obviously to US players that signing to Major League Soccer is not going to be good to their career or good to their form is detrimental to Major League Soccer,” Garber said.
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