MLS got Clint Dempsey’s suspension wrong according to US Soccer’s policies

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We find ourselves yet again with another botched suspension, and in this case, it proves that the most visible league in the United States can’t read or interpret its own rules and regulations.

It can be argued a three-match suspension, which Seattle Sounders foward and USMNT captain Clint Dempsey ultimately received for tearing up the referee’s notebook in a 3-1 U.S. Open Cup loss to Portland, is the correct punishment via precedent and any other moral standing. In the English Premier League, for example, any straight red card received for “violent conduct” warrants an automatic three-match suspension, although it can be extended for particularly egregious violations.

It could also be argued it’s too short, allowing a player to get off easy due to his name, reputation on the pitch, and standing as national team captain. The debate could be made for both sides.

What cannot be debated, however, are the written rules that U.S. Soccer has implemented for its own benefit, and how MLS failed to acknowledge them.

Dempsey exploded at the end of the Seattle loss following a teammate’s questionable red card, while maybe the referee made a mistake and maybe he didn’t, there is no excuse for attacking a match official. Dempsey didn’t actually “assault” the official in the everyday feel of the word, but he absolutely did according to the U.S. Soccer definition, and yet he wasn’t suspended accordingly.

Here is Policy 202(1)(H)-2, Section 2, Article a of its Policy Manual:

(1) Any player, coach, manager, club official, or league official who commits an intentional act of physical violence at or upon a referee (“Referee Assault”) shall be suspended without pay for a period of at least six consecutive matches (the “Assault Suspension”). The Assault Suspension shall commence with the first match after which the individual has been found to have committed this act.
(2) For purposes of this subparagraph 2(a), “Referee Assault” shall include, but is not limited to: striking, kicking, choking, grabbing or bodily running into a referee; spitting on a referee with ostensible intent to do so; kicking or throwing an object at an official that could inflict injury; or damaging the referee’s uniform or personal property (e.g., car, uniform, or equipment).
(3) The Professional League Member may not provide for a penalty shorter than the Assault Suspension but may provide for a longer suspension and/or a fine.

U.S. Soccer even pointed directly to this subsection of its policies in the press release it sent out Friday morning. So, Clint Dempsey swatted the referee’s notebook out of his hand, picked it up, and tore it to shreds. That seems to pretty blatantly fall under the “damaging the referee’s uniform or personal property” portion. How can one possibly argue otherwise? Apparently, Major League Soccer did. They handed down a three-game suspension, rather than the mandated six-game suspension in the policy. Whether you agree six games is too much, too little, or just right on a moral basis, this seems impossible to argue with.

This is all very key with the Gold Cup coming up. Should he be suspended for a longer amount, his international play would be affected. As the bylaws write, “The Assault Suspension and Abuse Suspension (the ‘Suspension’) shall preclude the suspended individual from participating in any soccer competition until the suspension has expired.” A six-match Seattle suspension would have left Dempsey out of action until July 18, and would rule him ineligible to play in any other competitions – club or country – until that date. The Gold Cup begins July 7.

The PSRA, the referee’s union that represents officials in MLS and USL Pro play, is understandably quite displeased with the punishment, believing that the lack of bite to Dempsey’s punishment will fail to deter future incidents of referee assault:

U.S. Soccer as a governing body was ultimately left powerless in this decision. Despite the U.S. Open Cup being a U.S. Soccer-led tournament, the rules state that in the event of “referee abuse or assault,” the punishment is determined by the player’s league – leaving Dempsey’s fate in the hands Major League Soccer. According to the bylaws, under the referee abuse subsection, “All Professional League Members shall adopt and enforce policies,” meaning since Dempsey is a Major League Soccer player, MLS was in charge of determining the outcome of his punishment.

As a U.S. Soccer spokesperson told me, the reason for this is because while it leaves them powerless in high-profile cases such as this, it also relieves them of duty to punish incidents in much smaller (yet significantly more numerous) amateur leagues and competitions that would be better in the hands of the presiding league or organization.

Thus, MLS took over the decision, and they botched it. Now, Jurgen Klinsmann finds himself with an interesting decision. Having named a 35-man provisional roster, he still has not chosen his final 23-man preliminary roster. Not only does Klinsmann have to decide whether or not to include Dempsey or not, he has the interesting dilemma of whether to keep the Texan as his captain or make a change. At 32 years old, there’s no guarantee Dempsey will be a member of the first team when the 2018 World Cup comes around, and this scenario gives Klinsmann an opportunity to make a captaincy change now and work in a new leader in the next three years.

Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer told the Seattle Times following the match, “Tuesday evening, the passion piece maybe went a little bit overboard and was maybe directed in the wrong ways. That goes for players, coaches, staff, fans. Now, we need to regroup. We’ve had lots of internal conversations. We will do whatever we need to collect information on fan misconduct and dole out appropriate punishments if those are necessary. We’ll deal with all of the rest internally. But I thought it was important to acknowledge that it wasn’t our proudest moment as the Sounders organization and we’re going to do better.”

Dempsey by far came out looking the worst, at least until MLS proved they are unable to read U.S. Soccer’s rules.

UPDATE: Apparently, there may be slightly more to come from this. U.S. Soccer told Liviu Bird of Sports Illustrated that although this three-match suspension comes from Major League Soccer by requirement, there’s still a chance that U.S. Soccer will hand down its own punishment. Most likely, since any second suspension will come down from the U.S. Open Cup disciplinary committee, it would cover U.S. Open Cup play, and not affect any outside competitions, including national team play.

Premier League standings

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The Premier League is back a three month suspension due to the coronavirus pandemic. Below you will find a reminder of the Premier League standings as we get back to business.

[ MORE: Latest PL TV schedule ]

With 92 games remaining in the 2019-20 Premier League season, there is plenty to play for up and down the league and the standings are extremely tight.

Liverpool have wrapped up the Premier League in stunning fashion over Man City, with the reigning champions and current second-place side eager to focus on cup competitions.

Three of the top four should stay there unless Leicester City’s form dips considerably, but the race for fourth and fifth should be fierce. We may know whether fifth is a Champions League place after scheduled June 8-10 meetings to hear Man City’s appeal over its European ban.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

With between nine and 10 matches left for everyone and eighth potentially being a Europa League spot, all the teams between fourth and 11th still have European hopes in the balance. That would change should Norwich City or Newcastle win the FA Cup, so call it 13 clubs.

The action is going to come fast and often, with the league putting together a staggered schedule of kickoff times that will make matches even more of an all-weekend affair.

Below are the Premier League standings in full, as we will updated them throughout the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

PREMIER LEAGUE STANDINGS

Team GP W D L GF GA GD Home Away PTS
 Liverpool 31 28 2 1 70 21 49 16-0-0 12-2-1 86
 Manchester City 31 20 3 8 77 33 44 11-2-2 9-1-6 63
 Leicester City 32 16 7 9 60 31 29 9-4-3 7-3-6 55
 Chelsea 32 16 6 10 57 44 13 8-3-5 8-3-5 54
 Manchester United 32 14 10 8 51 31 20 9-5-2 5-5-6 52
 Wolves 32 13 13 6 45 34 11 6-7-3 7-6-3 52
 Arsenal 32 11 13 8 47 41 6 8-5-3 3-8-5 46
 Tottenham Hotspur 31 12 9 10 50 41 9 9-3-4 3-6-6 45
 Burnley 32 13 6 13 36 45 -9 8-2-6 5-4-7 45
 Sheffield United 31 11 11 9 30 31 -1 7-3-5 4-8-4 44
 Everton 32 12 8 12 40 47 -7 8-5-3 4-3-9 44
 Crystal Palace 32 11 9 12 28 37 -9 6-4-6 5-5-6 42
 Newcastle United 32 11 9 12 33 43 -10 6-7-3 5-2-9 42
 Southampton 32 12 4 16 41 55 -14 4-2-10 8-2-6 40
 Brighton & Hove Albion 32 7 12 13 34 44 -10 5-6-5 2-6-8 33
 West Ham United 32 8 6 18 38 56 -18 5-3-8 3-3-10 30
 Watford 32 6 10 16 29 49 -20 4-6-6 2-4-10 28

 Aston Villa 32 7 6 19 36 60 -24 5-3-8 2-3-11 27
 Bournemouth 32 7 6 19 30 54 -24 4-5-7 3-1-12 27
 Norwich City 32 5 6 21 25 60 -35 4-3-9 1-3-12 21


Sheffield United – Tottenham preview: How to watch, start time, odds, prediction

Sheffield United - Tottenham preview
Photo by IAN KINGTON/AFP via Getty Images
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Sheffield United – Tottenham Hotspur preview: There are European hopes dripping from Wednesday’s meeting of Sheffield United and Tottenham Hotspur at Bramall Lane (Watch live at 1 p.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com)

Blades’ European hopes have taken a big hit since the Premier League’s return from the coronavirus pandemic. They’ve lost two-straight league outings and have just one win from five.

STREAM SHEFFIELD UNITED – TOTTENHAM LIVE ONLINE

Spurs have taken four of six points in just two matches since the end of the break and need a win to retake seventh place from Arsenal.

Team news

Japhet Tanganga and Juan Foyth remain out for Tottenham, who is otherwise as healthy as its been since the calendar turned to 2020.

Jack O’Connell is getting closer to a return for the Blades but Chris Wilder says they “won’t make a high risk decision on him.” John Lundstram is “touch and go,” according to the manager.

What they’re saying

Chris Wilder on the evolution of big January buy Sander Berge: “Sander is going to be a really good player for us. He’s 21 [sic], we paid decent money for him. £20m is not an unbelievable number. It is for Sheffield United, I understand that. So Sander comes with that pressure. But he’s a grounded boy and he’ll eventually play as a sitting midfield player. He’s a proper midfield player, he’s a really good kid and he always will get mine and the boys’ full backing.”

Mourinho on the struggles of big signing Tanguy Ndombele“Football is full of players who have made difficult starts and then ended well. When Luka Modric arrived at Real Madrid after six months he was labeled the worst signing in their history by the fans and the press. A few months later he was a champion, then a few months later he was European champion and then a few months later he was voted the best player in the world. So when the talent is there many things can happen with adaptation and if the talent is there anything good can happen.”

Odds and ends

The bookies aren’t so sure about this one, with DraftKings having hosts Sheffield United +225 and Tottenham +130.

Heung-min Son and George Baldock traded goals in a 1-1 November draw in North London.

Sheffield United – Tottenham Prediction

Spurs have the benefit of rest and potency up top. It’ll be a grimy one — Chris Wilder deems it so — but Tottenham gets the points 2-1.

Watchalong live: Join us for Manchester City v. Liverpool

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Join us for a Watchalong event on YouTube for Manchester City – Liverpool on Thursday (start time, 3:10pm ET on the NBC Sports YouTube channel).

Click on the video above to join us for the Watchalong, as ProSoccerTalk’s lead writer and editor, Joe Prince-Wright, will answer your questions and watch the action with you as you have a beer (or three) and some snacks.

The idea is to get fans together with JPW and have a good time watching the game.

Feel free to ask for his instant analysis on the game between the newly-crowned Premier League champions and the former champions by posting comments in comments section.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights

JPW will join you for the entire game, as he breaks down the live action in Manchester City – Liverpool and you have the chance to have your say on what Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp should be doing in the game, plus dissect the tactics, which players are starring and more.

Basically, join us to watch the game (hence the snazzy ‘Watchalong’ name) and let’s all enjoy these juggernauts do battle with plenty of pride on the line as Man City try to put down a marker for next season.

[ PREVIEW: Man City – Liverpool: Everything you need to know ]

We hope you enjoy our Premier League Watchalong as the two best teams in the league collide at the Etihad Stadium. Click on the video or link above to get involved.

Lampard on Pulisic’s superb form: “It’s a big positive”

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Frank Lampard revealed his thoughts on another wonderful Christian Pulisic display, as the USMNT winger put in a third Man of the Match performance in a row to continue his superb start to the restart.

[ MORE: Pulisic Watch – Analysis ]

Pulisic, 21, won the penalty kick and free kick which led to Willian’s two goals and came close to scoring himself on two occasions as he ran West Ham ragged.

With two assists and two goals to his name in his three Premier League games since the restart, the Pennsylvanian native has been right up there with Bruno Fernandes and Danny Ings as the best players since the restart.

Speaking to reporters via Zoom after the shock 3-2 defeat at West Ham, ProSoccerTalk asked Lampard about Pulisic’s strong start to the restart and if his form is the main positive from the defeat.

“It is a big positive. He is playing well, as we can all see,” Lampard said on Pulisic. “I thought him and Willian as wingers, who gets his two goals, but with Christian I think we all saw it during the season when he had a patch running up to and around Christmas, when he was playing towards this kind of level as well. Then he got injured and he’s been out for a long time. It is nice to see him back fresh and hungry and playing with the qualities he has. He’s going to get better. He’s a young player with great talent.”

Pulisic has been unplayable across the four games he’s featured in so far. He seems to be fitter, sharper and hungrier than he has been in a long, long time. Perhaps this is purely down to having a rest after the suspension from March to June where he could focus on fitness after rushing to Chelsea last summer following the Gold Cup and never really having a break.

Whatever Pulisic is doing off the pitch and in training, it is having huge rewards on the pitch. Right now, the Eden Hazard comparisons are cropping up time and time again and he’s certainly having the best spell of his Premier League and Chelsea career.

No player under the age of 21 has scored more than his seven Premier League goals so far this season and when the 2019-20 campaign is over, it will be one where Pulisic will look back and see plenty of ups and downs but it’s definitely ending on a high.

His form will be key in whether or not Chelsea qualify for the Champions League next season as they are in an almighty battle with Leicester, Man United, Wolves and even Tottenham and Arsenal.