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Jurgen Klinsmann doesn't answer to me on U.S. player selection - Garber

BRISTOL, Conn. -- Don Garber isn't trying to tell U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann who to pick for the national team, but in a wide-ranging interview with ESPN FC on Wednesday, the Major League Soccer commissioner also said he was entitled to his opinion as a fan of the game.

A day earlier, Garber was quoted as saying that the fact that MLS standouts such as Columbus Crew SC's Ethan Finlay, Benny Feilhaber of Sporting Kansas City and New York Red Bulls Dax McCarty and Luis Robles -- all of whom were named to the league's Best XI on Sunday -- have not been called up by Klinsmann this year is "unfair and unwarranted" and bothers him "deeply."

Asked if he believes part of his job as commissioner is to occasionally weigh in on technical matters, Garber sought to clarify his comments.

"I'm a fan just like everybody else," Garber said. "And I think when Benny and Robles and Finlay are performing really well in our league and have done the work to be performing at that level, I'd love for them to get into the [national team] player pool.

"I'm not saying that in any way I have influence over that decision," Garber added. "But I'm certainly entitled to have my own opinion."

In 2014, Jurgen Klinsmann and Don Garber had a well-documented disagreement over what league U.S. national team players should play in.

Garber and Klinsmann haven't always seen eye to eye. In October of 2014, the commissioner bristled publicly after the coach suggested that the national team would be better served by having top U.S players Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey stay with elite European clubs rather than return to the domestic league, where both began their professional careers.

Dempsey left Premier League Tottenham for Seattle in 2013. Five months later, Toronto FC lured Bradley from Roma of Italy's Serie A.

Still, Garber insisted that he and Klinsmann are on good terms these days.

"My relationship with Jurgen is good," he said. "He's a guy who is trying to do his job. He's trying to win and get through qualification and do everything he can to make our national teams better.

"I don't think we'll ever agree on everything and that's natural. My sole goal here is to do what's best for Major League Soccer and do as much as I can to improve the sport in the U.S. and Canada. Jurgen's job, whether he would agree with this or not, is to win games."

Garber said that he realized Klinsmann's job as coach and technical director was to win games and that how the team performs on the field is how he's ultimately judged by his employers.

"It's no different than any coach in any sport in any league around the world. And at times, there will be a disconnect between those relatively short-term objectives and the long-term objectives that we have, which is to grow our league."

Garber allowed that his words carry more weight than than those of a regular supporter, but he vehemently denied that he has ever used his stature to influence coaches-either of MLS squads or those who have led national team-during his nearly two-decade long tenure.

"In my 16 years as commissioner of this league, I have never, ever made a call to [U.S. Soccer president] Sunil Gulati or Jurgen or [former U.S. coaches] Bruce Arena or Bob Bradley and said 'I really think you should give this or that player a look.' Ever. I've never sat in a private conversation and tried to influence the decisions of our federation.

"I have a bigger platform, but my opinion is just that."

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @DougMacESPN.

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