USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann did not pull punches when criticizing the quality of Major League Soccer following the return of national team stars Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley. In response, MLS commissioner Don Garber offered pointed comments of his own directed at the USMNT boss, calling Klinsmann's remarks "detrimental" to the sport in the United States.
Soccer reporter Jonathan Tannenwald provided Garber's response from a Wednesday conference call:
Klinsmann, in his fourth year as the head of United States soccer, made his critical comments Monday before Team USA's 1-1 draw in a friendly against Honduras. Asked about the recent high-profile transfers of Dempsey to the Seattle Sounders and Bradley to Toronto FC, Klinsmann said his stars will struggle to keep the same form while playing in an inferior league.
“Concerned? I mean, there’s nothing I can do about it," Klinsmann said, per Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel. "I made it clear, 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 reality, it’s just being honest."
Dempsey played for Fulham F.C. and Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League from 2007 to 2013. He transferred to Seattle in August 2013, though he returned to Fulham on loan for a stretch midway through the 2013-14 season.
Bradley bounced around European leagues after leaving the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls) in 2005. He most recently spent a spell with A.S. Roma of Serie A in Italy from 2012 to 2014, returning to MLS on a $10 million transfer to Toronto. The move was seen as an attempt to help boost the popularity of the league throughout Canada.
Klinsmann indicated that Bradley's move was a marked step back, with Roma competing in Champions League and Toronto struggling to make the MLS playoffs.
"That comes along with, you adjust yourself to whatever environment you are in," Klinsmann said, "so he had to adjust to the environment he’s with in Toronto, instead of maybe an environment that plays Champions League football. So he’s going through that experience now, and still coming in now the first time since the World Cup he has to prove that he hasn’t lost a bit."
Garber, whose frustration and anger was obvious throughout the press conference, called Klinsmann's comments "frustrating as hell", claiming it's untrue that a player's form would be affected playing in MLS, per Tannenwald. The MLS boss also "demanded" that Klinsmann not make any more disparaging remarks about his league, per Jeff Carlisle of ESPN:
Andrew Das of the New York Times provided further comment from Garber:
B/R's Dan Levy believes Klinsmann's actions are making the US team less...American:
This is far from the first time Klinsmann's comments and actions have drawn the ire of fans or those within the United States soccer community. The German's decision to leave Landon Donovan off the U.S. World Cup team this summer at times overshadowed what was happening on the field. Donovan and Klinsmann have a testy relationship dating back to their days at Bayern Munich, and it has bubbled over in recent months as many sided with the most accomplished player in U.S. history.
“I believe that Landon should have been in Brazil,” Garber said, per Toby Moses of The Guardian. “Because his performance dictated it...His treatment was inexcusable.”
Donovan and Klinsmann temporarily mended fences for Friday's friendly against Ecuador, expected to be the 32-year-old's final cap with the national team. With Garber and Klinsmann entrenched in their respective positions, it'll be interesting to see whether a similar result can be achieved.
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