It Seems To Me. . .
Mollifying rift between Klinsmann and Garber is essential to progress of U.S. men.
By Robert Wagman
(Thursday, October 30, 2014) -- In recent days, United States men'scoach Jürgen Klinsmann has said several uncharitable things about Major League Soccer. This prompted MLS commissioner Don Garber to go ballistic and slam Klinsmann. This, in turn, has prompted U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati to step in and act as a peacemaker.
In January, someone perhaps should have reminded Klinsmann's about that old adage "Be careful what you wish for." He issued a stern warning that for players to be considered for the last summer's World Cup team in Brazil, the players should be playing for their club teams and not sitting on the bench.
Among those players taking notice of this warning were two of his stars: midfielder Michael Bradley and attacker Clint Dempsey.
Bradley was at AS Roma in Italy and the club was adding two offense-minded midfielders during the transfer window. Roma told Bradley it was happy with him and he was welcome to stay, but the club needed more goals from the midfield, so he would have to accept a substitute's role. At the same time Dempsey's goal production had fallen way off at Tottenham Hotspur in England's Premier League and it looked as if he too would be sitting.
Thus, the players started looking for new clubs. Dempsey received a shocking good offer from the Seattle Sounders of MLS -- $5 million-plus a year, so e returned home. Hot on his heels was Bradley, who signed a bigger deal, earning a $6.5-million for five or six years with Toronto FC.
Now Klismann is unhappy. Two of his key players are in MLS. He started the current round of acrimonious exchanges by saying: "There's nothing I can do about it. 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.
"I think (Bradley's) been faced with a very, very difficult year, going from a Champions League club to a team, Toronto that seems like they're not even going to qualify for the playoffs. It's a huge disappointment.
Garber, who is ultra-sensitive about anyone disrespecting his league, was not going to take this lying downing. He quickly fired back: "When we have a national team coach who in essence is telling players that when they sign with our league that it is not going to be good for their (international) career and frankly not going to be perceived well by the national-team coach is incredibly damaging to our league.
"To think that we are not aligned with our national team coach is disappointing and frankly it is personally infuriating."
This exchange left the USSF in the middle, a very uncomfortable place because under his new contract, Klinsmann is not only the coach of the U.S. men, but also the technical director of soccer in this country. In that role, he is charged with instituting a uniform scheme of player development from youth soccer through the youth national teams, then on to professional soccer and the full national team. Obviously. MLS plays a major role in this, especially because of the youth development programs all MLS teams have started.
So U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gualti has entered in the role of peacemaker.
"Given some of the comments, I wasn't surprised it became a hot-button issue," Gulati said. "But the fundamental views of all of us involved are: 'We're on the same page.' We got diverted from that, so it will go on for a little bit. I don't view this as there being an undercurrent going forward. There won't be any lingering issues.
"I don't think there is anything wrong with discussion, dialogue and disagreement," he said. "Most of that is better handled in a private way. Having these sorts of discussions are fine, but we need to have the tone of all of this brought down a little bit."
It will be interesting going forward to see how Klinsmann and Garber will work together. One can almost guarantee Klinsmann will not be making public statements about the quality of play in MLS except to say it s getting better and that is a good thing. Garber will likely be somewhat mollified, but privately it appears the two do not like each other very much and we will have to see if all that can be put aside.