There's long been a belief that United States Men's National Team manager Jurgen Klinsmann wasn't all that popular with Major League Soccer, but given that the two sides had a (semi)working relationship, they generally tried to say nice things about each other, even if those comments weren't 100% sincere. With that in mind, it caught me more than a little off guard when one MLS franchise owner came right out and confirmed that there's little love for Klinsmann among MLS ownership, who believe the coach has an anti-MLS agenda.
Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson was recently a guest on Stumptown Footy's Soccer Made in Portland. Among the topics discussed was a recent interview with U-23 coach Andi Herzog, who claimed that the national team staff was pushing players toward Europe whenever possible. Herzog later claimed to have been misquoted, but Paulson clearly wasn't buying it:
"There's no doubt that Herzog was quoted correctly, because that's an accurate sentiment among the coaches for the U.S. National Team right now. That stems from the top and that stems from Jurgen."
"I don't think you're going to find a single MLS owner who's going to be an advocate for Jurgen Klinsmann. This is a guy who's got a clear agenda that's an anti-MLS agenda. He makes emotional decisions. Landon Donovan would be a case in point. There's very much an agenda to get people playing abroad and probably rewarding some people playing abroad who don't deserve to be playing. That's one opinion, that's my opinion."
"Obviously, Darlington Nagbe is on the team and I hope me expressing any sort of candid answer to you on that question doesn't have any impact there. We support Nagbe and we're thrilled that Jurgen rates him, but he's crapped all over MLS in many ways subtle and not subtle. For this sport to be successful in this country, for the national team to be successful, the national team and our domestic league need to be pointing in the same direction more often than not and that just hasn't been the case under Jurgen Klinsmann."
Personally, I have absolutely no problem with Klinsmann pushing for players to move to Europe. Not only is the level of competition there exponentially higher than it is in MLS, but it's easier for players that aren't a perfect fit at their current club to get a transfer to a place of their choosing. In addition, the European calendar generally lines up much more nicely with the international calendar, something that's almost certainly appealing to any national team manager.
When Haji Wright rejected the chance to sign with the Los Angeles Galaxy last March, instead opting to join the New York Cosmos, it was widely speculated that Klinsmann's preference for players heading to Europe was a big factor in his decision. Now that Wright has secured his move abroad to Schalke, any success he has will likely lead to even more teeth-gnashing among MLS owners, and given how little I care for the salary cap, draft, and many other hallmarks of the league that limit franchise's ability to put better products on the field (while confusing everyone), all of that gnashing will just make me smile.
It's just too bad that MLS owners will probably hand pick Jurgen's successor, and do it sooner, rather than later.