Major League Soccer commissioner Don Garber said on Wednesday that recent comments by U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann's about the league and certain players were "detrimental," "wrong," and "personally infuriating."
Garber was responding to a series of comments Klinsmann made over the last week about players such as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley who decided to return to MLS after spending portions of their respective careers in Europe.
"There's nothing I can do about it," said Klinsmann before Tuesday's 1-1 draw against Honduras. "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."
Since Klinsmann made those comments, Garber indicated that he had heard from several MLS owners indicating their displeasure with the U.S. manager. At issue was not only the substance of Klinsmann's comments, but that he also made them publicly. The comments clearly struck a nerve with Garber.
"Sending a negative message to any player -- and obviously to U.S. players -- that signing with MLS isn't going to be good for their career or good for their form is incredibly detrimental to MLS," the commissioner said.
Klinsmann also said that Bradley "has to prove that he hasn't lost a bit" after going through a full season with lowly Toronto FC.
At first glance, all Klinsmann seems to be saying is that the top leagues in Europe still represent a higher playing standard than MLS. Garber felt that Klinsmann went further than that.
"I believe what he's saying is that the players that have come back -- [Bradley] and [Dempsey] specifically -- have seen their form diminish because of their move to MLS," he said. "I don't believe that is true at all."
Garber continued his salvo by commenting on Klinsmann's decision to leave Landon Donovan off the World Cup roster and said he saw parallels between the U.S. manager's treatment of Donovan and that of Bradley. Just last week, Klinsmann said that he thought Donovan -- regarded as the best player the country has produced -- could have done "a bit more" in his career.
"I don't know what could have possibly motivated Jurgen to so publicly criticize Michael Bradley, and ultimately Clint," he said. "It's concerning to me that it seems to be following a pattern that began with his criticism of Landon.
Garber later added, "I believe that Landon should have been in Brazil, not because he earned it or deserved it, but because his performance dictated it, and if anybody disagrees with that ... then I believe his treatment was inexcusable. And I have concerns that his criticism, particularly of Michael, is following that same pattern. If Jurgen wants to talk to Michael about what he believes is in the best interests of his career, go ahead and do that, but don't use a global media platform to do that."
Garber insisted that he has a good relationship with Klinsmann, and that he was in favor the U.S. manager's contract extension that was given six months before the World Cup. But he added that he the game's power brokers need to "align with the vision that has been established" and that in Klinsmann's case, "I don't believe that's happened."