Last night during ESPN2's coverage of the MLS All-Star Game, league commissioner Don Garber joined the halftime show and "answered" a couple questions from Max Bretos, Alexi Lalas and Kasey Keller. I put answers in quotations because while he was pretty straight forward about the first two questions, he completely evaded the core of Keller's question.
I've gone back and transcribed interview so you can read what Don Garber had to say about the league's goals, the Olof Mellberg deal, transfers in general and his evasion of talking about the allocation system used for returning American national team players.
Bretos: Talk about the goals that this league has by 2022 to be one of the top leagues in the world. What has happened this year that has moved you closer to that?
Garber: You gotta have big goals. I think it's weak to not really expect to be big then act to be big. So this year you're seeing an improvement in the quality of play, lots of investment in players, lots of passionate fans and we want to continue to build on that. Making our clubs more revelent, look what we have here in Philly and in Seattle. Lastly, we wanna be a good business, you know a lot of great leagues that are upside down econmically. We want to do it in a way where we have finacial reasonableness and I think were on our path to being able to achieve that.
Pretty straightforward softball generic television question for a league commissioner. Nothing here that exciting or newsworthy really.
Alexi Lalas then asked a question from Twitter about the rumor that the league nixing the Olof Mellberg deal in Toronto, the Geoff Cameron transfer and Tim Cahill. Basically, he was asked to explain league's role in making decisions for the clubs in terms of transfers:
Garber: Let's put Mellberg aside. The league hasn't nixed that, Toronto has decided that economically it didn't make sense for them, and at the end of the day it was a decision that they felt was in their best interest. Let's talk about Geoff, because I know that got a lot of buzz. You know, at the end of the day, the league has gotta come in and make decisions that are in the best interest of everybody; the player, the club and the league. Now the good news is, Geoff is on his way to being transferred and that worked out, but we've gotta be sure that we're making the right decision, that the first offer that comes in we just don't accept. Remember guys, Charlton Athletic offered half of what Fulham offered when ultimately Clint when over there and I get that the fact that players might want to go when the first thing happens, somebody has got to take a step back and say hey, might be the starting center back for our national team, a player that we would have loved to renegotiate his deal and pay him more money to stay, at the end of the day it worked out that he's gonna get transferred and I think ultimately positive for everybody.
This was interesting. Garber's comments on the Toronto FC/Mellberg deal don't add up because of reports coming out of Toronto that the front office there is telling reporters that the league nixed the deal. Somewhere in the middle is the truth I expect, but someone isn't being totally honest. It's easily the most newsworthy answer of the interview.
Then next question from Keller was the best of the three, but it was also completely evaded by Garber.
Keller: Let's talk about players now trying to return back to America. Right now the American player isn't on equal footing as the foreign player. The American player has to go in to some sort of system where this team gets this first chance at him, he doesn't get to say, I'm from this particular area, I would really love to come home and this is where I want to come home too.
Garber: Well you know Kasey, he can say that, but the team that holds his rights has some value by basically being next in line for that player and then there's a trade done like Toronto trading for Brian McBride and ultimately having him go back in to Chicago. In Cahill's place, the Red Bulls said, we want to sign Cahill, and there are the only one that can negotiate with him at that time and ultimately that's what they ended up doing. So I think what's unique for us is that we have to have a system. That system has created this. A league that's growing, that continues to rise, that everybody feels good about, that's got lots of people, ex-players and others employed in the business and that system is the one that we feel very strongly about, one that we're going to fight hard to protect.
Nice evasion of the question from Garber. I wish Keller had come right out and called the allocation draft by name rather than dancing around it. Still, we all know what Keller was asking and it should come as no surprise that Garber cleverly tip toed right around it, basically saying nothing. The allocation draft system used for returning national team players is a bit of a joke and I don't think Garber had any chance of defending it, so instead he just offered a fluff response.