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.

PSG wins French league after 2nd-place Lille fails to win

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PARIS (AP) Paris Saint-Germain clinched the French league title without kicking a ball as second-place Lille could only draw 0-0 at Toulouse on Sunday.

Lille had to win to have any chance of catching PSG, but PSG is now 16 points ahead of its only rival with five matches left after this weekend.

After failing to clinch the title in the past three matches, drawing one and losing two, PSG can celebrate the eighth title in its history ahead of its home game against Monaco later Sunday.

It is PSG’s sixth title in the last seven seasons, with only Monaco in 2017 breaking PSG’s dominance.

Although the title was long expected from a side scoring 92 goals in 32 games so far, it took longer than it should have.

PSG could have won it three games ago, but drew 2-2 at home to Strasbourg when a win would have clinched it.

Then PSG needed a draw at Lille last Sunday, only to lose 5-1 in the club’s heaviest defeat since Qatari investors QSI took charge of the club in June 2011.

A win away to Nantes would have sufficed, too, on Wednesday night only for PSG to lose 3-2 .

The 10 goals conceded in those three games made for PSG’s worst defensive record during a three-game spell since 1985.

Also Sunday, striker Kalifa Coulibaly scored twice as 13th-place Nantes beat 17th-place Amiens 3-2.

Later, Saint-Etienne needed a draw at Reims to move above Marseille and into fourth place.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

Klopp hails Liverpool mettle in face of “proper banana skin”

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Jurgen Klopp knows that more than a few clubs would’ve slipped up Sunday at Cardiff City, given the hosts’ desperation and the visitors’ midweek triumph, but his Reds stood up to the test.

[ RECAP: Cardiff 0-2 Liverpool ]

Liverpool beat Cardiff City 2-0, scoring a pair of second half goals to go back atop the Premier League before Manchester City plays its final match-in-hand of the season in a midweek Manchester Derby.

“It was prepared to be a proper banana skin and we knew that, the boys were unbelievable,” Klopp said after his team kept a second consecutive clean sheet.

He insists that he’s not feeling pressure as Liverpool may need to win every one of its matches and get help to capture its first Premier League crown.

“I only know about me and I didn’t feel it (the pressure) we have to do it like we do it. We cannot change it. The boys try really with all they have, we only speak about the things we have to do. Their attitude is outstanding and it’s a tough season but a very positive one as well.”

Liverpool has two banana skins left, a visit from Huddersfield and trip to Newcastle, closing out the league slate with Wolves at Anfield.

Benteke leads Palace surprise at Arsenal (video)

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  • Benteke scores first goal since April 28, 2018
  • Zaha nabs ninth of season
  • Ozil goal forges brief deadlock

Christian Benteke scored a goal and added an assist as Crystal Palace handed much-changed Arsenal a 3-2 set back at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Wilfried Zaha and James McArthur also scored for the Eagles, while Mesut Ozil and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang posted Arsenal’s goals.

The win boosts Palace into 12th with 42 points, while Arsenal remains fourth with 66.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Roy Hodgson‘s men took a surprising early lead through a strangely surprising source, given that Benteke was once a prolific and danger scorer.

With room to operate, the Belgian turned a header past Bernd Leno to put the Eagles on top.

Palace was fortunate not to concede a penalty through an Aaron Wan-Bissaka handball in the box, and Cheikhou Kouyate saw two bids to beat Leno saved by the keeper.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Arsenal needed less than two second half minutes to equalize, with Iwobi finding Lacazette with a deft outside-of-the-boot pass. The Frenchman slid Ozil through on goal, and Ozil blasted it near side for a 1-1 score line.

Palace restored its lead thanks to a Benteke flick toward Zaha, with the Ivorian going around Shkrodan Mustafi before beating Leno.

And then it was 3-1, a 69th minute corner kick from Luka Milivojevic finding the back of the goal when James McArthur redirected a header into the goal.

Aubameyang needed a fortunate bounce to line up his shot, but deserved every bit of his 77th minute goal.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]

Liverpool handles its business in Wales (video)

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  • Wiljnaldum scores opener off corner
  • Milner converts Salah-won penalty
  • Cardiff cannot finish chances

Georginio Wijnaldum and James Milner scored to put Liverpool back atop the Premier League following a 2-0 defeat of Cardiff City on Sunday.

Neil Warnock‘s Bluebirds had their chances but simply lacked quality in finish. They remain three points back of Brighton and Hove Albion in the race to avoid relegation.

Liverpool is a point ahead of Man City before Wednesday’s Manchester Derby at Old Trafford.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Sadio Mane and Roberto Firmino broke the Cardiff back line, but Neil Etheridge closed down to help force the Brazilian to fire over the goal.

It was mostly Liverpool’s game, but Oumar Niasse need nearly luck into an in-tight finish after Victor Camarasa flubbed a shot into his path. Alisson Becker tipped it over the bar.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

[ MORE: Premier League schedule ]

Wijnaldum put the Reds on top about 12 minutes into the second half when he wrapped his right foot around a bounding set piece to send it flying past Etheridge.

Henderson’s would-be goal was blazed over the goal in the 61st minute. It wasn’t quite a sitter, but there was certainly some beckoning goal.

Cardiff’s Sean Morrison missed his second significant chance of the match off a 64th minute corner kick.

Roger East awarded a penalty kick to Liverpool when Morrison manhandled Mohamed Salah in the box. Milner rarely misses from the spot.

Etheridge made a tremendous save on Salah in the 90th.

[ MORE: Premier League stats ]