In the midst of a scathing attack on US national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann over his remarks about MLS, league commissioner Don Garber has criticized the German for not selecting Landon Donovan for the 2014 World Cup.
Garber was responding to a series of comments Klinsmann made over the past week about US stalwarts Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, who have returned to MLS with the Seattle Sounders and Toronto FC, respectively, since last summer after spending portions of their 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.’
Garber indicated that he had since heard from several MLS owners indicating their displeasure, with the long-serving commissioner moving to brand the US manager’s remarks ‘detrimental to the league,’ ‘disappointing,’ and ‘personally infuriating’.
‘I believe what he is saying, that the players who have come back, Michael and Clint specifically, have seen their form diminish because of their move to Major League Soccer. I do not believe that is true at all,’ he told the press during a hastily arranged media conference.
‘I also believe it sends the wrong message to other young American players that we collectively — the league and federation — want to have a dynamic that grows the game in our country. It also sends the wrong message to players that we are signing overseas.
‘If we have a guy who is charged with not only being the national team coach but being the technical director of our country basically saying that if you come home to Major League Soccer, you are going to end up like Michael and Clint … I don’t agree with that premise to agree with, but I believe Jurgen believes that.
‘If you make those kinds of comments, it’s going to negatively impact our ability to create the right partnerships with corporate sponsors, the right relationship with fans and ultimately create the right dynamic to continue having the success we have had signing international players.
‘We are dealing with young professional athletes. I don’t know what possibly could have motivated Jurgen to so publicly criticize Michael Bradley and ultimately Clint,’ he continued.
‘It is concerning to me that it seems to be following a pattern that began with his criticism of Landon [Donovan]. … I regret not saying this at that time and I will say it now: Landon should have been in Brazil, not because he earned it or deserved it but because his performance dictated it. If anybody disagrees with that, and clearly Jurgen does, then his treatment was inexcusable.
‘I believe Jurgen should embrace the vision of the future of the sport. That is his job. For him to publicly state issues he has with Major League Soccer, it’s not going to allow him to effectively serve the role as not just coach but as technical director.
‘I am in no way saying what Sunil should be doing with Jurgen as it relates to employment,’ he added. ‘That is between Sunil and Jurgen. He has done a great job with the national team. He needs to think very, very hard about how he manages himself publicly and how he motivates players playing in our league.
‘I am demanding that he refrain from making comments which are critical of our players and damaging to our league.’
With five career World Cup goals to his name, Donovan had been the US’s undisputed focal point of the previous three tournaments, boasting a record 57 goals and 58 assists in 156 appearances since his first cap in October 2000 going into the past summer.
Reports are, however, that Klinsmann did not appreciate the former Everton loanee taking a three-month sabbatical from the sport in early 2013, with the two’s relationship decidedly strained since.
With a poor start to the 2014 MLS season contributing to his hugely controversial omission, the LA Galaxy forward has subsequently been in fine domestic form, setting the league’s all-time goal and assist records on the way to leading his side to top spot in the Western Conference.
Having announced in August that he will retire from all forms of the game at the end the campaign, he was given an emotional farewell match against Ecuador in East Hartford, Connecticut, on Friday, captaining the side for the first 40 minutes of the 1-1 draw before coming off to a standing ovation.