So, it’s fine for a soccer player to constantly kick and grab the opponent, but one slap to the groin is worth a two-game suspension.  That’s basically the stance Major League Soccer’s disciplinary committee has taken with it’s punishment of Seattle Sounders FC star Clint Dempsey.

The Toronto Sun’s Kurtis Larson @KurLarSUN was the first to report Dempsey will have to sit out the next two matches for his below-the-belt slap on Toronto FC defender Mark Bloom during last Saturday’s game at CenturyLink Field.

Dempsey was not called for a foul by the replacement referees working the game, but MSNBC cameras caught the incident.  No question Dempsey was frustrated by the barrage of hard fouls administered by Toronto, and Seattle’s 2-nil first half deficit.  After the match Dempsey said he was merely reaching back to get Bloom’s hand off his back.   Bloom accepted the explanation and apology.

Clearly, opponents have employed the hack first, ask forgiveness later strategy against Seattle. Sporting Kansas City and Toronto FC averaged 25 fouls in the first two MLS games.  Coach Sigi Schmid spoke of the obvious strategy following Tuesday’s training session.

“It disrupts the rhythm of our play when teams are fouling us that much,”  Schmid said.  “If it continues at that rate it could be a record for opponents against our team in a season.”

With World Cup Brazil on the horizon, US National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann is concerned about the rough treatment of Dempsey and other American players in MLS games.

“Obviously we are worried about Clint Dempsey getting fouled I don’t know how many times in that game against Toronto,” observed Klinsmann.   “Your key players in a certain way, you want them to be protected.  It was one of the main issues when he came back into MLS last fall.  They really banged him in every game.”

Seattle players, until Dempsey’s slap below the belt, have showed great restraint from being kicked, shoved, and taken out of the flow of the game.  Part of the issue is the style of play replacement officials have allowed.   While they have worked some of the top leagues in the world, they have not adjusted to the more physical play of MLS.

In the Toronto and KC matches referees did allowed some players to foul 4 and 5 times before giving them a verbal warning.  Twice is plenty, then it’s time to threaten the yellow card to end the rough stuff.

The Pro Referee Organization, which administers officiating programs in the U.S. and Canada, has locked out the MLS referees until a collective bargaining agreement is reached with the Professional Soccer Referees Association.

With the influx of skilled players like Dempsey and Michael Bradley,  MLS  needs to tell the replacement or real referees to reward beautiful footwork and creative passing, and end the foul-a-thon strategy.

-Bill Swartz, 1090thefan-

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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