By Simon Evans
(Reuters) - Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber hit back strongly at U.S. national team coach Juergen Klinsmann's recent comments that players switching to the North American league could be hampered by a drop in form.
While MLS has trumpeted the return of leading U.S. players like Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley as a sign of the league's rise, Klinsmann said this week that players returning from stints Europe risked a drop in form.
"Juergen's comments are very, very detrimental to the league, to the sport of soccer in North America ... they are wrong," Garber said on a conference call that was specifically arranged so he could reply to Klinsmann's comments.
An animated Garber said Klinsmann's words, which were made on Monday, undermined the work that MLS and the U.S. Soccer Federation were doing to develop the game.
"I believe it sends the wrong message to other young American players that we collectively - the league and federation - want to have in Major League Soccer so that we can develop the game and the league," he said.
Garber said he sent a "very strong letter" to U.S. Soccer Federation president Sunil Gulati and that MLS club owners had done the same independently.
Klinsmann, speaking ahead of Tuesday's friendly against Honduras, expressed concerns that Bradley, who moved from AS Roma, and Dempsey, who left Tottenham for Seattle Sounders, could suffer a drop in form.
"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," said Klinsmann "It's just reality. It's just being honest."
(Reporting by Simon Evans in Miami; Editing by Frank Pingue)