NEW YORK (AP) Major League Soccer Commissioner Don Garber criticized Galaxy coach Bruce Arena for alleging the league and media caused “hysteria” over a tackle by Los Angeles midfielder Nigel de Jong that injured Portland attacker Darlington Nagbe.
De Jong received a yellow card from referee Allen Chapman during the April 10 match, and the league last week suspended de Jong for three games. The MLS disciplinary committee called the play “egregious and reckless.”
Before the suspension, Arena was quoted on the team’s website as saying de Jong “has a reputation that precedes him.” He added “if that was any other player in that tackle, it would not have received the hysteria that it has” and went on to say “hysteria is the fault of social media. It’s the fault of people in MLS … and the journalism.”
“It was a really irresponsible comment to make,” Garber said Thursday after meeting with the Associated Press Sports Editors. “To think that a league office or our broadcast partners would try to position something in a way to inflame a situation is just absurd.”
De Jong broke the legs of American midfielder Stuart Holden and Newcastle winger Hatem Ben Arfa in 2010, the same year he kicked Spain’s Xabi Alonso in the chest during the 2010 World Cup final.
Arena said the tackle of Nagbe was worthy of a yellow card or possible a red. Garber thinks the 31-year-old de Jong won’t make another rash tackle.
“He needs to understand, as I think he does, that there’s no place for tackles like that on our field,” Garber said.
Nagbe, who made his U.S. national team debut in November, sustained a sprained his left ankle and has missed the Timbers’ last two games. He is back in full training this week.
Garber was disappointed Chapman didn’t give Nagbe a red card but praised the official’s other work this season.
“We realize it’s an imperfect sport,” he said. “It’s part of what creates the drama and the water-cooler talk and it’s part of the beauty of the game. This is not an exclusive issue. I watch games all week long and there are similar missed calls in every league and at the highest level, from the World Cup on down to junior soccer.”