Commissioner Don Garber should know better. As the man most personally responsible for growing MLS into a palatable product in the United States, he should understand something very basic. As we discussed on today’s Daily 2Gs show on CSRN, the league is only where it is from an international standpoint thanks to DC United. For Commissioner Garber to make the following comments smacks of an appalling lack of respect for the signature club of the league he is the head of:
"For this league to win over the core audience, we’ve got to be able to be among the best clubs in N. America. DC United talks about their goal is to win a spot in the World Club Championship. They want to be the best team in the region. They really struggled the other night at Pachuca.”
DC United Manager Tom Soehn responded with the following:
“I want to thank our commissioner for motivating us for some slighted comments he had against us in the papers. I appreciate his TV analysis.”
Perhaps Mr. Commissioner if you weren’t so busy over selling and over promoting your league and certain teams in the league you could focus a little bit on making MLS more successful in these sorts of events. It’s quite ironic that despite all the bluster from the league office and certain executives about the Los Angeles Galaxy and David Beckham, when the rubber meets the road and our little league has prove it has grown up in legitimate competitions, the Galaxy and their $9.1 million payroll are never to be found. (The SUM created Pan Pacific Cup and Superliga are events meant to showcase MLS and make money, not true international championships of any sort)
You mention, Mr. Commissioner that for the league to win over its core audience our teams must be among the best clubs in North America. If that is the case, which I believe it is, why has the league spent so much time trying to market to casual sports fans via David Beckham and other vehicles who don’t share this perspective or even understand it in the least? I applaud the leagues newly stated goals: they have been my goals as I have editorialized time and again on this site for years now. However, if that is in fact your goal, and the goal of the league, why when a team such as DC United or Houston have injuries to key players like Ben Olsen or Eddie Robinson are they not able to sign a replacement player that doesn’t count against the salary cap or the 18 man senior roster limit?
Hasn’t occurred to you Mr. Commissioner that DC United at one time was arguably the best club in North America and then quickly slipped behind about twelve Mexican league teams because of the MLS salary cap and the number of quality players DC United was forced to let go of? Didn’t it embarrass you when A.J. Wood, Micah Cooks and Carey Talley were starting for DC United in the Champions Cup instead of players like Roy Lassiter, Jeff Agoos and John Harkes who had qualified them for the event? Do you recall that? Was that the fault of DC United? (no disrespect intended towards Wood, Cooks and Talley but my point is DC qualifed for the event with superior players and were forced to dump them because of the salary cap)
How about last night when Houston was forced after the fourth minute to play with several non regulars and several players out of position? Dom Kinnear knows the rules of MLS and did a great job developing more depth for the Dynamo last season, but to ask him and his players to do the impossible and then imply the league won’t win its core audience is to say the least irresponsible.
Instead of creating loopholes for the LA Galaxy who finished 11th in a 13 team league to circumvent the salary cap, why don’t you, Mr. Commissioner focus on helping teams like DC United and Houston who have stated a desire to be among the best clubs in the region and are closer due to their actions than the LA Galaxy who simply has the bombastic rhetoric of its front office to fall back on? Why don’t you look at ways to help top MLS sides (a group which again does not include the Galaxy) gain exemptions so they can compete hard in top competitions. Last season, DC United lost to Chicago in the playoffs largely because of their participation in the Copa Sudamericana. This year, with a similarly tight schedule, United may be inclined to decline an invitation to COMNEBOL’s second most prestigious event or worse yet send a “B” team to compete because the squad rules and salary cap are too restrictive.
We all want MLS to succeed abroad in these competitions. I have stated time and time again on this site that these events are how MLS’ success is measured, not by some superficial standard the league employs. Yet the league office much as it did with expansion holds different teams to different standards.