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Garber hits out at Klinsmann for comments on MLS, its players

DonGarberMLSCommissioner1-Montreal (USATODAYSports)


Don Garber has stepped into the ring and is ready to play hardball with U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

The MLS commissioner didn’t take too kindly to Monday’s comments from Klinsmann that put the league, and players Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey, in a poor light. In a hastily scheduled conference call this afternoon, Garber held no punches back in his disappointment at Klinsmann’s comments, calling them “detrimental to the league,” “disappointing,” and “personally infuriating.”

“I will do anything and everything to defend our league, our players, and our owners,” Garber said on the conference call. “I don’t believe anyone is above the sport, and I believe everybody needs to be accountable for their behavior, whether its as a commissioner or an owner or an athlete or a national team coach.

“I feel very strongly having spent the last 24 hours, thinking about this issue, discussing it with MLS team owners, members of our board, that Jurgen’s comments are very, very detrimental to the league. They’re detrimental to the sport of soccer in America and everything that we’re trying to do North of the border. And not only are they detrimental, I think they’re wrong.”

Garber was responding to comments Klinsmann made in a press conference in Florida ahead of the USMNT’s 1-1 draw with Honduras, when he was asked if he was concerned with the form of both Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, who moved to MLS from European clubs within the last 12 months.

“I made it clear with Clint’s move back and (Bradley’s) move back that it’s going to be very difficult for them to keep that same level that they experienced at the places where they were,” Klinsmann said on Monday. “It’s just reality. It’s just being honest.

Klinsmann later added: “I want everyone to grow in this environment, but the reality also is that for both players, making that step means that you are not in the competitive environment that you were in before.”

Garber’s offensive centered on the point that he feels that Klinsmann was discouraging American players from signing with the league, and claiming that the comments were “at odds” with a shared vision between U.S. Soccer and MLS.

“Sending a negative message to any player, and obviously to U.S. players, that signing with MLS is not going to be good for their career or good for their form is incredibly detrimental to MLS,” Garber said. “We have invested since our founding, billions and billions of dollars in creating a foundation for this league and this sport, growing a fan base, commercializing this sport, creating a dynamic where it’s part of the sports culture, and doing what you hear me say often, which is creating a soccer nation in America.

“When we have a national team coach that in essence is telling players that when they sign with our league, that it is not good for their career, and frankly not going to be perceived well by the national team coach who is selecting the U.S. National Team, is incredibly damaging to our league. In 2014, MLS is going to spend over $30 million on player development programs alone. That investment is going to grow more and more over the next couple of years. Yesterday, Adrian Hanauer, one of the teams that was criticized by Jurgen yesterday, just announced that they’re announcing a USL Pro team.

“So the investment today and our investment in USL Pro and player development is just going to continue to grow over time,” Garber continued. “I think we are leading the development efforts in this country. To think that we are not aligned with our national team coach, it’s disappointing and frankly its personally infuriating. I don’t think it is in line with the shared vision that this league has with the federation, where we have heard many many times that the federation believes that a strong and vibrant first division in the United States is going to be one of the key drivers of the sport in this country.

“To think that our national team coach is in disagreement with that is frustrating as hell.”


What do you think of Garber’s comments? Do you agree with him? Think he’s taking it too far? Do you believe MLS is a league where the top American players are being challenged enough?

Share your thoughts below.


    • People find JK contemptible because it is never his fault. It is the fault of MSL . It is the fault of the competition. Self evident truths take NO courage to enunciate.. Making a tough situation better takes courage. JK has no courage. He speaks “truth” to cover his arse. People forget he is a second tier coach. He is no VG or Maurinho or Rodgers or Ancelotti. When he gets fired here, you think anyone will hire him? Those crazy MU midfielders of 10 years ago would have punched him out long ago. they couldnt stand bullshooters. You think Dempsey or MB will die for him? Watch your back with this guy and reveal nothing to him if you are a player. You cant trust him. What a coach!

  1. MLS is simply not in the business to develop players for the National Team. Like every other pro league in the United States they are operated as businesses first and the idea of business is to beat out the competition. These teams do not want to waste time and money developing players to compete–they want the finished product. MLS has decided they want to compete against the bigger leagues and that’s fine. For younger American players their best chance of developing is to go to a Holland or even a Belgium–these leagues are smaller but have accepted their role as leagues which take raw talent and develop them into better players which to sell to the bigger leagues at a profit. Even the smaller teams in the top leagues use this strategy to stay afloat and develop some fine players :see Rayo Vallecano transfers the last 4-5 years. For all who say the salary cap is the American way I think are a little mistaken…it exists not for competitveness but for cost certainty to control player salaries and insure owners can return a profit. I would love a non-salary cap league in America simply for the Oakland A’s/KC Royals reason–teams with limited budgets who have to take players that aren’t good enough for the powerhouses of the leagues and develop them into players which can compete for a series title. If people are looking at MLS to develop American players then we need more KC Royals/Oakland A’s type teams in the league that know their place but do a fine job working within those resources. Otherwise I think the younger American’s are better served playing overseas–developing into better players–making them more marketable–and earning them a higher pay scale when MLS buys them back at 30. I think Jurgen can be critical of MLS in terms of level of play and player development for our younger players but Dempsey at 30+ has peaked out at the player he is-for MLS a good marketing person that will not impact the future of the national team dramatically.

    • You’re right – except (even though he mentioned him) I doubt Dempsey’s really the one that bothers Klinsmann. It’s Bradley. Dempsey certainly won’t be a 90 minute player in 2018, if he’s even in the picture at all, he’ll be a 30-minute super sub kind of guy. Bradley’s the one who’s going to be overtaken by the younger players because his career will now plateau without the challenges playing overseas provides.

      As I mentioned above – MLS is great as a basic player development league and as a retirement league. It’s in developing that elite player in the prime of his career that the league needs to make serious investment in, and that means bringing in the world’s best – not when they’re 34, but when they’re 24. And that can only be done, as you mentioned, by removing the salary cap.

  2. Klinsmann is absolutely correct in his assessment of players coming home to MLS. And while Garber has to protect his product, the simple fact remains that there are a number of things that can be done in order to strengthen the overall quality of his product with or without top American players – things that Garber simply won’t do.

    – The end of single entity. While this was necessary in the early days to keep the league afloat, it’s no longer needed. The league’s byzantine allocation rules are an absolute joke.
    – The end of the salary cap. Allow teams to get better by paying comparable wages to some European clubs without this stupid “Designated Player” tag. People keep saying how players like Dempsey and Bradley make more here than they were making in Europe – fine, then allow the teams to spend what they want on players instead of tying their hands. When you have 3-4 high-end players, you’re forced to fill the roster with crap in order to fit under the cap. You can’t tell me that teams in MLS can’t pay players the same that a mid-table EPL or Bundesliga team are paying.
    – Somehow, some way, promotion/relegation needs to be implemented. With Toronto out of the playoffs, the next competitive match Bradley will play will likely be in March – and by competitive, I mean with something riding on it. Many players in Europe will have salary cut clauses in their contract if the team gets relegated – you think those guys would play like their lives depended on it if they were going to lose 60% of their salary?

    Sorry, but if you’re going to continue to operate the league as a cost-containment league, it’s going to continue to languish and not be a quality league for advanced player development. It’s going to remain a basic player development league, or a retirement league, but the top players in the world or in the country are not going to (and should not) come here to take their game to the next level.

    Soccer’s popularity in this country is at an all-time high, yet MLS tv ratings continue to trail the likes of the WNBA (while EPL ratings continue to set records). Fans aren’t stupid, they’re not going to watch an inferior product just because. If that were the case, the D-League would blow the NBA out of the water.

    • This is all nonsense. This isn’t europe where teams are making money hand over fist, or teams with fan bases that go back generations. There’s 19 teams in MLS and I’m guessing 5 or 6 are losing money every month. Chivas is shutting down, DC loses money, and I’d bet Columbus, New England and probably Colorado are hurting too. MLS isn’t a charity, it’s a business and the only way it stays successful is if it remains a business.

      Take away the salary cap and you have great teams in Seattle, LA and NYCFC, and thats it. Americans like competitiveness, just look at the NFL. You build 3 super teams and the league dies. And even if those teams stock themselves with big names from around the world, it still does very little for the leagues rankings. The only way MLS grows across the country is for the EVERY team in the league to grow.

      Oh, and Jurgen, playing every match in Seattle or Toronto beats the hell out of riding the pine in London or Rome.

      • Are you so dense that you don’t realize that you just emphasized my point for me?

        How many top teams are there in La Liga? 4? 5? You’re so right, that league is definitely failing.

        You’re right, MLS is a business. That means – as an industry – you don’t prop up the businesses that are failing. You find someone who is willing to compete, who wants to be the best – period. If an owner doesn’t have the money to compete, then they either need to sell to someone who does, or find someone to come in as an investor. The point is, for the most successful businesses, money leads, it doesn’t follow. You don’t grow without putting capital into something. The city I live in has both an NBA and MLB franchise – the NBA owner believes that money leads, and his team is one of the best in the league. The MLB owner believes that money follows, and wonders why his team is dead last in attendance.

        Playing every game in a league where physical attributes are valued higher than skill is ridiculous. Training in London or Rome is more valuable than playing in Seattle. If playing were the only measure, then hell, I play in three leagues right now, I’ll be waiting for my callup. After all, playing more often beats the hell out of riding the pine, right?

        And you proved your ignorance further by claiming how Americans love competitiveness, and pointing out the NFL as a model. Sure, the majority of their teams are bunched in the middle, but when it comes down to it, at the end of the day, it’s the same 6-8 teams in the conference championship, year after year. If you truly want to see how Americans respond to parity, look at MLB, where 11 different teams have played in the World Series over the past decade. And what’s happening to MLB? Ratings plunging, attendance plunging, youth participation plunging.

        But no, please, let’s keep going with your model. Let’s make sure we cut up enough orange slices for halftime and everyone gets their participation trophy at the end of the game.

  3. Garber is absolutely the loser in this battle. his comments were embarrassing and his emotions took over. he acted like a jealous ex-girl friend. JK said NOTHING that is not already know. although I disagree with him that Dempsey should have stayed in Europe, it is a no brainer that, from a development standpoint, Bradley would be better off in Europe given his age.

    Roma wasn’t happening, that’s fine, he needed to leave. but he had multiple offers from mid-table clubs in the big four leagues. he would have had playing time unless his form plummeted. JK knows this and this is the root of his disappointment of Bradley heading to TFC. i will not blame Bradley for making the decision that was best for his family, which was the $ offered by TFC, but what JK said is TRUE. Bradley is going to have to work a lot harder to maintain his sharpness and even harder to try and progress. why? because MLS is not at the level of the big 4 in Europe.

    for Garber to come out like he did after taking the comments completely out of context is not a good look. it’s fine that he defends the league, but the league did not need defending this go-around. some of the things he said, like demanding that JK never criticize MLS again, is absolutely mind blowing. is this North Korea?!

    then he brings up the LD issue which is completely irrelevant. especially when LD was left off the team because JK picked two other MLS players; Davis or Wondo (depending on how you look at it).

    i love MLS, i love the USMNT. i think Garber has been great for the league, i think JK has been great for the US. but Garber is way off on his comments yesterday and i’m still astonished he flipped out. i do not believe him when he said he thought long and hard about it because his comments show the exact opposite.

    • Garber is like the girlfriend who flips out because you are 10 minutes late & sends you 40 angry text messages. What an unprofessional response.

    • hey bryan,

      in which of those leagues would Bradley’s task and challenge have been to be the man and lead his team from never doing a thing to some kind of accomplishment? Answer: no where. it’s a different challenge, an amazingly tough one that will grow other parts of him and his game.

      and anyway, the bigger challenge to Bradley’s performances on the USMNT is Klinsi’s insistence that he play in that advanced role in midfield…THAT is affecting his play on that team the most and I would argue has hurt his confidence (we can debate that). Anyway, Klinsi is focusing the light on MLS re. MB’s play rather than focusing it on the reality of his choices and his deployments of MB, which hurt him and the team imo

      I expect some tart replies 🙂

      • correct, nowhere. but guess what? JK’s comments were talking specifically about the level of play. at TFC, and in MLS, he is not getting the level of competition he would get had he taken one of the offers he had to stay in Europe. sure, he will absolutely grow in terms of leadership and being “the man” but that is not what JK addressed. and why couldn’t he be that guy in Europe for a team? he wouldn’t be handed the key to the city like he has in Toronto, but he could have earned it. Dolo did.

        as for playing him out of position, i totally agree there. JK is doing him no favors and deserves to be called out for that. but again, JK’s comments, which is what’s relevant to this conversation, was simply about the competitive environment he would prefer his best players to be in. at TFC, Bradley is not getting that same level of competition. so, in position or out of position, the question becomes can Bradley continue to grow as a player or will he plateau? i don’t think he will regress, i don’t buy that for a second, but i totally agree with JK when he implies a player like Bradley will not continue to grow in MLS. Bradley needs that next level to push him. especially because Bradley is absolutely capable of playing at a very high level if being pushed to do so. MLS just isn’t at the level to be able to push him to where our best player, or one of our best players, should aim for at his age.

      • thanks for the reply bryan

        Klinsi is addressing the player’s development, growth, so did I but with the positives of the move. the level of play is an aspect, there is no dispute! but so is the responsibility and the challenge of a position with regards to player development and maturation, they all go together. so we’re still talking the same thing imo.

        and I believe if Klinsi played MB in his best role he’d shine and help carry the USMNT along with it, as he’s shown in the past he can. He’s not playing him there tho, those saying it’ to challenge and motivate MB are waaaay ff target imo, evidenced by the late move by Klinsi just before Brazil to install MB there because he had developed no others he trusted! (evidenced by Mix and the bench) motivational? that is last ditch maneuver stuff

        and you now what? that’s fine! all coaches do that stuff…ALL. imperfect beings are coaches.then we thank the player who played out of position for the team, and fell on their sword so to speak. I have a lot of respect for what MB did in Brazil like that tho man use it to indict him now

      • yeah for sure, but he is specifically addressing the development of an elite US player in his prime in his comments, so i think it’s only fair to maintain the focus there instead of extrapolating the rest.

        not once did he question whether MLS could develop a player to the level they need to be in order to make the jump to Europe. so that’s why i’m so confused why people are talking about youth and that he questioned the league as a whole. he’s said many times before MLS has really started to prepare players well and hopes those players can make the next step when the time is right.

        “and I believe if Klinsi played MB in his best role he’d shine and help carry the USMNT along with it, as he’s shown in the past he can.”

        totally agree about the position thing. in the WC, we didn’t have a choice because JK thought it was a good idea to bring in Wondo over a Jozy replacement like Boyd. but he could have played Bradley in the right spot against Honduras and, for some reason, didn’t. BUT…Bradley has not looked good for TFC, to the level we are used to, despite playing his preferred position.

        and yes, in the past Bradley has shown he can be that dominate force. but where was he playing? Europe. and i think until Bradley proves he can get back to, and then exceed, that level of play, it’s hard to say JK is wrong.

      • he hasn’t lost anything bryan, he looks tired tho. I watch most TFC games JUST because he’s on that team. since Brazil he’s been inconsistent but hardly the selective memory nightmare some report. one observation is that his time in that role for JK hasn’t improved his game. is that a surprise? not really. how many DMids make the move to attacking midfielder? the other way, yes.

      • i didn’t say he did (although if he looks tired, than he is likely playing below his usual standard, which would imply he lost something).

        what i said is that JK’s statement was he needs to show he hasn’t. but more importantly, he needs to show he can develop more than where he was/is at. that’s the whole point of this. not maintain, but grow. Bradley is going to have a harder time growing his game when he is already better than level he’s currently playing in. JK is publicly telling Bradley, “prove me wrong.”

        i watch most of TFC’s games because of that too. same with Seattle and Dempsey. i watch NE games (as a DC fan!) because Jones. i even watch Philly games just to keep tabs on Edu. so i’ve seen it all (thanks MLS Live!).

        and again, i agree JK can’t compare Bradley’s play out of position to how he was playing when he was in position. which is why i also agree JK needs to play Bradley as a #8 or #6. and if you ask me, Bradley is absolutely a #8 over a defensive mid/#6.

        that is why, in a 4-2-3-1, he excels. you have him as a #8, then either #6 or another #8 next to him laying deep with Dempsey in a #10 like role above. or you go with a 4-3-3 with a mini triangle central midfield of a #10 w/ #8/#8 or #8/#8 behind the #10.

        but Bradley is capable as a #6 so i am fine with a diamond if that means finally having two strikers. in that formation, i’m fine pushing Jones out left or even now at CB.

  4. Garber is a shrewd businessman. I don’t think he believes JK’s comments are wrong. If he does I would truly lose a lot of respect for him. He’s gotta know where JK is coming from. I think he’s just trying to protect his business and if the best american players are encouraged to play overseas the league will lose star power, and consequently may suffer lower ticket sales.

  5. Performance and productivity increase when happiness and job satisfaction is present. If players are happier playing in MLS like Donovan and Besler, then their performance will probably reflect that. If the are happier in Europe, like Mixx or Gooch, then great! That is how it was with Donovan. I think LD would have been a shadow of the player he was and became if he tried to gut it out in Europe being miserable the whole time.

    I say let the players do what makes them happy, it will probably result in better performance and productivity, and screw Garber and Klinsmann and their petty agendas!

  6. To Quit Whining:

    I sugget you get some. You have some major mental issues. Also, you JK haters are coming off as reactionary dolts. Thankfully, you are a just the vocal minority. In the ESPN FC poll, only 25% supported Garber. Also, most of the soccer pundit class believed that Garber came off as crazy.

    • Hmmm. I could have sworn I said I hope that he changes before he gets canned.

      Not really sure how that equates to a JK hater. Nice try to try to put me in a stereotype, so you can hate on Garber or whatever your agenda is.

  7. I get that the commish can fine and muzzle people like Bruce Arena and Michael Bradley when they are critical of MLS, since they are league employees, but screw him for trying muzzle all criticism. If it weren’t for critics, we’d still have the damn shoot-out and a clock that buzzed and killed the game at the 90 minute mark.
    The fact is Klinsmann is correct. Those guys did come back for huge raises and they are playing at a less competitive level.
    For me, I’m looking forward to the days when Arena can speak freely. His voice will lead to positive changes.

  8. Good for Garber for doing his job to stand up for the league. JK wasn’t necessarily wrong, but its a classic example of publicly biting the hand that feeds him. I’m not sure how long he’ll continue to get away with criticizing everyone around him. He has now dumped and bashed our most successful player, criticized our top players and is now bashing the league that supplies most of his team. Not only that but he continues to make these decisive statements only to consistently defy them. There’s a fine line between creating a chip on players’ shoulders and loosing a locker room.

    • It is almost like he thinks he is better than US soccer, huh ?

      He talks down to us all the time. Can you educate me on what is best JK ? I am just a dumb American and we don’t get soccer. Oh, there I go again, stupid me, it is called football. Man, when am I going to get this crazy game ?

      I really think that HE needs to decide. One, can he win in the system that is here, or just whine about why he can’t succeed ? They aren’t going to have Pro/Rel in the next four years, so can he win or not ? And players aren’t going to pass up the MLS money, which is only going to get bigger.
      Two, is he in, or is he just “above” this whole thing. I don’t have a problem if he is “above” it, just go somewhere else. There are plenty to take his place and we will be happy winning it all with or without him.

      But we are not going to win with a whiner making excuses.

  9. The amount of flak JK is catching from fans for simply stating the truth is astonishing. I get why Garber has to amp up the rhetoric–he has a product to defend. But the coach of the national team has a different job– get the national team to a place where it can compete in the World Cup as deeply as possible. That includes acknowledging where our players are and devising a path to get them where they need to be.

    But if as fans we are truly serious about supporting the development of this sport into a world power we need to learn how acknowledge where are. Criticism is not rejection. Progress is good, but we’re not there yet. LA Galaxy is good, but it is not Barça. Sporting KC is good but it is not Bayern Munich. Sounders are good, but not Man City. Not as a brand, not as a first team environment. We’re just not there yet. Why is that so insulting to people to hear?

    Look at the teams that played in the World Cup final- the starters played where? All Klinsmann is saying is until we have that kind of caliber of player, playing in those kind of club environments, we should not expect to be World Cup finalists. Truth hurts, prods us to work harder and demand more. I’m a big fan of MLS soccer, and I believe it will get there someday. It’s not there now.

    • No one is suggesting the quality between those teams are the same. The answers aren’t black and white. JK could have avoided all this if he had simply balanced his statements with any mention of how much MLS has improved, how talent development has improved and that top US players playing the league contributes to that. Look at his comments about Donovan. He didn’t make a single mention of how much LD contributed to the improved domestic league and how that helps the big development picture. Instead it was myopically about whether LD could have made it in Europe.

  10. Last thought on this; remember when USSF and Jürgen failed to reach a deal, was it 2006 and 2010? And Gulati said that USSoccer wasn’t ready for Klinnsman!

    but is America ready now? Imagine if he was put in charge in 2006?

    Personally, i’m glad they went for it in 2011! I think these are important times in the development of soccer in the USA and i’m glad someone like him is here to push it as far as possible.

  11. Garber called out a whiner about US soccer. For that I applaud him.

    For JK to throw up excuses as to why he couldn’t do any better with more talent is just pathetic and unneccassary. He has the contract, he didn’t get fired..and yet he whines. Jk: Its not my fault, it is US soccer. Give me a break, get in there, get your job done and QUIT WHINING.

    Once again he is condescending to the players and people and in my opinion fans of socer in the country. IF it continues, they should look at a change….hopefully he changes first.

    • Reality vs. Fantasy.

      That is a legitimate discussion. But what would getting the job done mean? Winning the world cup? Semi-finals? We need better players for that.

  12. 1. The league is 20 years old – top 5 are over 100 years old
    2. Europeans can play anywhere in Europe without a work permit.
    3. USSF an MLS need to line up and ensue edge development of players in the states first and than
    March abroad.
    4. JK hasn’t accomplished anything yet. At the WC we hit to where we have been before. Actually biggest mistake he made was not having a replacement for Jozy.
    5. JK- knew what the U.S. and league were about. Why take the job? Criticism need to come with solutions. The solution cannot just be get to Europe.
    6. Not everyone can play in the top 5 leagues. So get over it and start using your experience at the highest levels to ensure that our programs are better.
    7. Early excuses for not winning Gold Cup and doing a horrible job at the Centennial Cooa America.
    8. Let’s stop for a minute and think about where we are and where we were. The league has helped tremendously. I can only imagine that if we had players in the top 5 as JK wants we would win the WC. Not a bad job with non elite players.

  13. This actually works out for Garber. In almost 7 years when MLS is still not an elite league, Garber can use Klinsmann as a perfect scapegoat. “We would have been great if It wasn’t for that damn German for sabotaging our league!” …I lost respect for Garber for his stupid rant.

    • What the heck are you talking about. JK brought it up, using MLS asa scspegoat.

      What planet are you living on ? JK whined an excuse and Garber blasted him for it…like we all should with all whiners.


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