Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber never got the chance to say it this summer, so he took the opportunity to make it clear on Wednesday.
Landon Donovan should have gone to Brazil.
As part of a half-hour teleconference with media members on Wednesday in which Garber defended the league and its players against recent criticisms from US head coach Jurgen Klinsman, Garber said the LA Galaxy star deserved to be on the United States’ World Cup roster.
“I regret not saying this at that time, and I’ll say it now: I believe Landon should have been in Brazil,” Garber said. “Not because he earned it or deserved it, but because his performance dictated it. And if anyone disagrees with that – clearly Jurgen did – then I believe his treatment was inexcusable.”
Donovan was cut from the US roster during the preliminary camp in May, costing him a shot at a fourth World Cup appearance for the US team. Klinsmann was critical of Donovan’s form at the time and has been a regular commenter on Donovan’s career path, most recently telling media members last week that he believes Donovan "could have done a bit more."
Garber was recovering from surgery at the time Donovan was cut from the US team and sent a press release in support of Donovan’s career, but he said Wednesday that comments like the ones Klinsmann made last week and others made this week about the career path of Toronto FC midfielder Michael Bradley have created a trend than is disconcerting for some of the country’s best players.
“I have concerns that [Klinsmann’s] criticism – particularly of Michael – is following the same pattern,” Garber said. “If Jurgen wants to talk to Michael about what he believes is in the best interest for his career, go ahead and do that. But don’t use a global media platform to do that.
“I think that is totally unacceptable.”
Garber also defended the decisions to return to Major League Soccer in the past year by both Bradley and Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey, who signed lucrative contracts to join Toronto FC and the Seattle Sounders, respectively.
“I think it’s incredibly judgmental for anyone to say that Michael Bradley’s or Clint Dempsey’s sole motivation to come back to Major League Soccer was because of what their salary was versus what some think it might have been had they stayed in Europe.
“I can assure you that Michael Bradley – who is a professional and has been since he was 16 years old and has from pretty good advice [from his father and former US national team and MLS coach Bob Bradley] – would not have come back to Major League Soccer if he did not believe it was in his competitive best interest to do so.
“And I can assure you that Clint Dempsey feels that way. There is enormous pressure on Michael and Clint in Major League Soccer. I don’t agree with Jurgen’s comment that there isn’t. They’re leaders of their team, leaders of our league, and leaders of our national team.”