We’re waiting on the future of USMNT midfielder Darlington Nagbe after Nigel de Jong brought his reputation and planted it firmly in MLS soil on Sunday.
The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder’s hard-edged tackle went over the ball and onto Nagbe’s ankle, leaving the Timbers midfielder in a wheelchair by game’s end.
Surprisingly, it only earned a yellow card from referee Allen Chapman. In hindsight, this can happen if a referee somehow has a poor angle, but MLS has these things called cameras and said devices will be called in to make sure the punishment fits the crime.
Given his brutal tackle that left Stu Holden with a long road to recovery in 2010, we’d ask what is it with De Jong and promising American midfielders, but De Jong is a multi-national offender. He basically karate kicked Xabi Alonso at the World Cup, and has also ended a season for Hatem Ben Arfa during his career.
It would be shocking to see this poor tackle go unpunished though, remarkably, De Jong has escaped red cards in many of those incidents (if not all: He only has been shown two reds in his career). It took the Dutch national team suspended him from participating to see real discipline for De Jong.
To his credit, he commented on the matter instead of dodging all microphones.
“I went for the ball and I caught the ball a little bit, and caught most of his ankle,” de Jong said. “It’s just a pity. It was never my intention to hurt him. He’s a good kid as well. I said that after the game as well. It’s a pity, but that’s football as well. When the ball comes in that situation, you always go for it 100 percent, but unfortunately, I caught him.”
Timbers and USMNT fans will hate hearing this, but legislating these things is very difficult. With his horrible slides on Holden and Ben Arfa, it’s simple to say we have to get that tackle out of the game.
Again: De Jong never should’ve made the challenge but some would argue that Nagbe’s ball wizardry and misdirection put De Jong out of position, and he mistimed his make-up lunge. He deserves to be suspended and certainly red carded, but are we thinking the same about this tackle if it’s another player making it? Obviously that’s impossible to know, but a better question: If a player had his rap sheet without the international acumen, would he have been banned from the game by now?
[ MORE: Recaps from Saturday’s MLS action ]
The one reason I hedge on throwing the book at him — It is a horrible tackle, don’t get me wrong — is that MLS has to be very careful not to dive into what the NHL so famously does, and give out discipline based on the extent of injury. Marty McSorley swings a stick and knocks out Donald Brashear? Reputation! Send him out forever. Duncan Keith cuts Charlie Coyle? Reputation! Few games.
What’s fair here?