As you may have heard, Sounders forward Clint Dempsey has plopped himself into some hot water with his ejection from Seattle's 3-1, extra-time loss to Portland in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday at Starfire Stadium.
As you may have heard, Sounders forward Clint Dempsey has plopped himself into some hot water with his ejection from Seattle’s 3-1, extra-time loss to Portland in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday at Starfire Stadium.
Brad Evans already had been shown a second yellow card, and Obafemi Martins left the game on a stretcher because of a groin-related injury when Sounders midfielder Micheal Azira was red-carded for his tackle on Portland substitute Gaston Fernandez in the 111th minute. Seattle’s last men standing quickly surrounded referee Daniel Radford to protest the call. And Dempsey went further, grabbing Radford’s notebook out of his pocket, tossing it into the air and later ripping it in half.
Sports Illustrated‘s Grant Wahl reported Wednesday morning that U.S. Soccer was gathering information on the incident with “next steps determined ASAP.” Sam Borden of the New York Times, the reporter who helped break the news of the recent FIFA arrests, added that a decision is likely to come before this weekend’s MLS matches.
Whether it will affect Dempsey’s availability for Saturday afternoon’s match against San Jose — and beyond — is murky.
The Open Cup is overseen by the U.S. Soccer Federation, and it’s unclear whether any ruling would carry over to MLS. Dempsey, Evans and Azira will all face at least a one-match ban for Seattle’s 2016 Open Cup opener, as Timbers midfielder Diego Chara was last night after being red-carded in Portland’s elimination from the 2014 edition. But historically, MLS has ignored the cards and sanctions picked up in Cup play.
A telling case is that of former Chicago Fire attacker Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who head-butted a D.C. United official during a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal in 2008. The Mexican international was banned from the competition for two years and fined $7,500 by MLS — but didn’t miss a league game.
As always, precedent is always an imperfect guideline when it comes to MLS, with its history of bending its already ambiguous rules as it sees fit. But if there has been any kind of guiding principle, it’s that the league has done everything in its power to get more stars onto its fields.
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The Sounders were off Wednesday, so any further word from the club on Dempsey — and Martins’ status — will have to wait until Thursday morning. Dempsey’s reaction “was what it was,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said after the match in coming closest to addressing his star forward’s actions.
“I think there was frustrations from our players,” Schmid said. “I don’t think Azira’s is a red card. Obviously, Dempsey’s reaction was what it was.”
Whether Dempsey’s U.S. national-team status for the upcoming Gold Cup is in jeopardy is a more complicated question.
As broken down in detail by the good folks over at American Soccer Now, in ripping up Radford’s notebook, Dempsey might have triggered an automatic three-month suspension. The relevant section of the U.S. Soccer policy manual is as follows: “1) The person committing the referee assault must be suspended as follows: (a) for a minor or slight touching of the referee or the referee’s uniform or personal property, at least 3 months from the time of the assault.”
The notebook pretty clearly falls under the umbrella of “personal property,” and “must” doesn’t leave a lot of wiggle room.
Dempsey might be unlikely to face any kind of significant punishment from MLS, but there’s a very real possibility that the U.S. national team might be without its captain for next month’s continental championship.