Major League Soccer Friday handed down a two-game suspension and fined Sounders midfielder Clint Dempsey an undisclosed amount for striking Toronto FC defender Mark Bloom in the groin in Saturday’s match at CenturyLink Field. Dempsey will miss the game Saturday at Montreal and the March 29 meeting with the Columbus Crew. He will be eligible to return April 5 when the Sounders play at Portland.
The Dempsey-Bloom incident occurred just before halftime. During a stoppage, Dempsey swung his right arm back and caught Bloom in his crotch. Bloom immediately crumpled to the turf. Dempsey was called for a foul but not carded as the replacement officials missed the incident, which received extensive NBCSN replay. Following the match, Dempsey insisted that he was not trying to injure Bloom.
“To be honest with you, I felt a hand on my back. I tried to hit it away and thought I was hitting his hand away,” Dempsey said after the 2-1 loss. “I understand that maybe I did catch him a little bit. I apologized to him about that, but for me, all I was trying to do was smack his hand from touching my back.”
Bloom accepted Dempsey’s explanation and apology, but the MLS disciplinary committee did not.
The captain of the U.S. National Team, Dempsey was fouled six times during the loss to Toronto, tied for the second-highest total for any player in an MLS game since Aug. 10, 2013, Dempsey’s first game back in the league after his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur.
Since that match, Dempsey is No. 1 on the MLS list for fouls suffered per 90 minutes with 3.6 (minimum 300 minutes played), a worrisome development to USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who said Wednesday that Dempsey has been the target of excessive foul play by opponents.
“Obviously we are a little bit worried about Clint Dempsey getting fouled — I don’t how many times against Toronto,” Klinsmann said in a video distributed by U.S. Soccer. “Your key players, in a certain way, you want them to be a little bit protected in a way that people can’t overdo it.
“This was one of the main issues already when he came back to MLS last fall. They really kind of banged him in every game. I mean fouled him over the edge. I hope that MLS is having an eye on that.
“What I saw there on the weekend (vs. Toronto FC), there were certain things not within the rules. So I hope our players get protection because they need to be healthy going into this World Cup.”
The Sounders have been fouled 50 times in their first two league matches. They lead the league in fouls suffered, by a wide margin over the Portland Timbers, as the chart shows:
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Dempsey isn’t even the most-fouled Sounder. Osvaldo Alonso leads MLS with 10 in two matches. Dempsey and Lamar Neagle both have eight, making Seattle the only club in the league with three players in the top five.
The Sounders take on the Montreal Impact Saturday at 1 p.m. Regular MLS referees will handle the match after they resolved their labor dispute with the league earlier in the week that forced the use replacements in the Sounders’ first two games.