Klinsmann expresses concern with treatment of USMNT players like Dempsey in MLS play

Seattle Sounders v Toronto FC

Photo by ISIPhotos.com


The 2014 World Cup is fast approaching, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s biggest fear has to be the thought of losing a key player to a serious injury. That would have made watching Clint Dempsey play last weekend against Toronto FC especially worrisome after, in Klinsmann’s words, Dempsey was fouled repeatedly.

The U.S. Men’s National Team head coach sounded off Wednesday on the rough play directed at Seattle Sounders forward and national team captain Clint Dempsey in a U.S. Soccer video. He said Saturday’s game against Toronto FC, in which Dempsey was fouled six times in a 2-1 loss, was especially egregious.

“Obviously, we are a little bit worried about Clint Dempsey getting fouled I don’t know how many times in this game against Toronto,” Klinsmann said. “Because your key players, in a certain way, you want them to be a little bit protected, protected in a way where people can’t overdo it.”

The health of Dempsey being his key worry — he battled injury problems throughout the summer after coming to Seattle in August — Klinsmann said Dempsey is being fouled “over the edge” in every game.

“I hope MLS is having an eye on that,” Klinsmann said.

Dempsey has been fouled eight times this season, tied for fourth in the league, although he didn’t play a full match in Seattle’s season opener two weeks ago. Last year, Dempsey was fouled 27 times in 12 appearances, No. 1 in the league for most fouls suffered per 90 minutes played (3.6), according to MLS.

“I understand every opponent that faces Clint Dempsey, it’s how do we want to shut him down, so you’ve got to be on your toes and you’ve got to be very physical but all within the rules,” Klinsmann said. “What I saw there on the weekend, there were certain things not within the rules anymore. So I hope that our players, in a certain way, get a little bit of protection because they need to be healthy going into the World Cup.”

What Klinsmann did not address in the interview was Dempsey’s own actions in the Toronto FC match, which included him hitting an opponent below the belt in an off-the-ball incident that could lead to a suspension.


What do you think of Klinsmann’s concerns? Does Dempsey get more than his fair share of physical play? Agree that USMNT players should receive special treatment?

Share your thoughts below.

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86 Responses to Klinsmann expresses concern with treatment of USMNT players like Dempsey in MLS play

  1. Eric says:

    I think Dempsey probably is the target of more physical play, partially because of his skill/style of play, partially b/c he’s the guy with a target on his back. Also though, his own physicality and temperament doesn’t help things. He can be cheap/dirty just as often, and that leads to retaliation.

    • Hogatroge says:

      I can’t condone Dempsey’s own physical play lately, but compared to what he faced in England and his disciplinary record there, you’ve gotta think some of his behavior is provoked.

    • Gary Page says:

      It’s only within the last six months or so that I have started to read these kind of comments about Dempsey’s play. How many times has Dempsey gotten a red card? I cannot recall him ever getting a red card. How many times has Dempsey been forced to sit out a game due to an accumulation of yellow cards? I cannot recall this ever happening either. While he was at Fulham I am sure he was the most fouled player there, too. Dempsey takes a lot of abuse because he is both skilled and dangerous as an attacker. And yet he gets very few yellow cards. He earns a whole lot more yellows and free kicks than he gives up, so I don’t know on what facts you are making your conclusions. I’m pesky that way, I like fact based arguments.

      • The Garrincha says:

        Well said GPage, just the facts, nothing but the facts. good info. btw

      • away goals says:

        Dempsey has always been chippy and will often blur the line between cheap shot and accidental contact.

        He easily could have been sent off like two minutes into the 2010 knockout match against ghana for an elbow. It’s just how he rolls.

        • iggy says:

          agree’d. he’s broken like 3 guys jaws also. he’s not a super clean player, but just very good at drawing the line.

      • UclaBruinGreat says:

        Gary Page, that is a silly argument with respect to this issue. I agree with you that a fact based argument is always preferred, but in this case we are talking about something where there is no reliable statistical record. Are you seriously using yellow/red card accumulation for this argument? I know you are someone that watches soccer frequently, so you should know how unreliable that is. There are many fouls during a game, and yellow/red cards are rarely handed out in comparison to the total fouls. Also, committing or not committing lots of fouls and being a dirty player are two different things. Being a dirty player has more to do with individual personality.

        Long story short, all you have to do is consistently watch Dempsey in games to see that he is does have a cheap/dirty/unsportsmanlike temper-mate. You can disagree with me, but I will wonder if we have been watching two different Dempseys. I still root for him because he is our USMNT captain, but I recognize/admit what type of player he is.

        • Frank says:

          Most of his cheap shots/trash talking happens away from the action and is often missed by the cameras.

      • Birgit Calhoun says:

        Dempsey has gotten 21 yellow cards, no red cards.

        • Dennis says:

          I think Dempsey’s hard challenges are mostly of the pushing with excessive force kind, not the dangerous flying tackles or other violent play that do (and should) get red cards so am not surprised by that statistic. I thought the cheap shot he took against the TFC player was uncharacteristic, but worthy of disciplinary action.

      • Excellency says:

        Welcme to the bush league play and refereeing of the MLS.

        Some of the replacement refs have been an improvement, it should be said. I shudder t think what happens to the class players when the bush league refs are back.

    • alf says:

      He’s competitive to the limit not dirty. He was not born in the suburbs with a ‘soccer mom van’ at his disposal. He had to struggle to get to where he is along with his family. Son’s of doctors and lawyers (just an example of wealth) could not understand this struggle. It makes a player harder and that is why Clint is on the national team. I will agree that Clint is being fouled a lot so where does that leave him? Should he become a little cry baby all of a sudden?

      • SwerveZ says:

        Agree!!!! It’s pretty bad in MLS and I picked up on that right away. He’s not just going to dive and take it; he’s gonna tell you not to do it again…JK is right. Protect them. Period.

  2. bb says:

    Ives made similar comments in his latest SBI Show about Darlington Nagbe. The skilled players don’t get enough protection. It’s a lot smarter for a defender to take a player down in midfield before he gets beat. Better that than risking a goal. A big part of advancing MLS and soccer play/style in the US is to give more fouls & yellows to the offending player. Otherwise attractive free flowing soccer will be more difficult to take hold when the calls benefit the more physical defenses.

    • Bobby B says:

      Agree and I think this is a good time to raise this issue. Use the WC as the reason, but overall MLS needs become less of a physical league and more of open attacking league. It will inspire more of those players to sign for the league and, frankly, draw more fans.

      • Spectra says:

        I agree that MLS physicality needs to be toned down but this isn’t just an MLS issue. Have you seen what happens to Messi and Ronaldo in El Classico and most other games too. The fouls are immense.

        • Bobby B says:

          You comment re La Liga is incorrect. MLS is a much more physical league and its physicality is one reason that very skillful players do not come to MLS.

      • Mike R says:


        • The Garrincha says:

          Agreed, the game must grow, more fluid play, less fouls, or more fouls called.
          making the game more attractive, little by little.

          • My solution to less physical fouling (half tongue in cheek) is to have women refs. They should all be moms of soccer players and no mom wants to see her kid (even tho he’s 33) get hurt.

            And how can a guy argue with a mom and a woman to get out of a foul?

    • Josh says:

      Dallas fans have been complaining for years about this. Ferriera was mauled every game for years, to the point that if he wasn’t injured, no fouls were going to be called. You could tell it wore on him, mentally and physically. It’s a tough league to be skillfull in, so many squads have hack tactics that refs eventually stop calling so there aren’t whistles every other min.

    • jb says:

      Have been saying this for years. The rules/officiating are what is keeping MLS from taking the next step as a league. Not only is obstruction( a defender knocking a player off balance after getting legitimately beaten) not a yellow in MLS, it’s often not even called a foul! If anything makes MLS look bush league it is this! Garber and owners wake up! There seems to be an impressive number of skilled players in the league now, they must be allowed to play!

    • wood chip zip says:

      yes, Darlington gets fouled more than anyone else in MLS cause no one can deal with him. I for one would like to see what he can do rather than watch him fouled every time he attacks.

  3. CoMo says:

    off topic but regarding Julian Green:

    Is the Mexico match maybe his only opportunity to show his worth? I know this is an open call up roster and anyone could come but after that are the 3 tune up matches and correct me if I am wrong but those matches consist of the Final 23 man roster or at least the last 2 matches with the first match being a preliminary roster of 30??

    My god someone give me dates and numbers please!!!!!!!!!!

    • slowleftarm says:

      I think it’s pretty obvious Green will be in the 23. He hasn’t proven a thing but JK has decided he doesn’t need to.

      • away goals says:

        Sometimes it’s really easy to see when one player is better than another. It’s at least possible this is the case with green.

      • Byrdman says:

        Slow i appreciate your consistency. I dont agree with you in anyway shape or form. I raise my american kids in the Dominican Republic, and they are Americans through and through. But i like that you are passionate about your stance. I guess you will have just have to put up with the rest of us. :)

      • Maykol says:

        Surr he has, klinssman has seem him train with the other US players

        • Jake says:

          Klinsmann also has named Jozy and Dempsey as part of his “spine” even though the first cant score and the second is fading fast. Pardon me if I question JKs judgement these days.

          I wanna see Green play before I judge if he belongs or not. We already have Aron and Juan, I’d luv to see how he compares to them.

    • Expat4455 says:

      Very good question CoMo. I thought Klinsmann could have 30 players available for the send-off friendlies to choose from. Of course he couldn’t have all of them suited-up for each one.

      But now I am not sure. Help, does anyone know if Klinsi must name the 23 before the 3 send-offs?

      • downintexas says:

        If his one time switch gets processed fast enough he gets to play Mexico. If not he has the summer camp and two send off games before the final roster is set. I’m happy to have him here, but hope he can get some real minutes at Bayern or play amazing in the friendlies coming up. I don’t think it is set he is in the 23.

      • Josh says:

        The FIFA rules say the 30 man is due May 13th, the final 23 is June 2. So that is before Azerbaijan and the day after Turkey, but before Nigeria. So there are 3 games before JK needs to name the 23.

    • Postmaster says:

      Posted below, stupidly. Duplicated here.


      The 23-man roster follows on the heels of the second of three sendoff matches. Only the Nigeria match is after the announcement. Here’s a good graphic.

      link to noshortcorners.com

    • Hogatroge says:

      He can easily be named to the 30-man preliminary WC roster (at the expense of someone else) without having to take him to the WC. He should be able to play in at least 1 pre-WC friendly before Jurgen trims the roster.

      That said, people are speculating that Green will get more time with the Bayern 1st team as soon as Munich mathematically ensures the Bundesliga title (which they can do with 2 more wins).

  4. mouf says:

    Jurgen Klinsmann is the boy who cried MLS

  5. Keith says:

    The Deuce is a punk. Hasn’t been in form for years and picked up euro cheap shot and diving habits in his time overseas. Locker room cancer. We’ll be better off in 2018 without him.

    • Nic D "The TX 2 Stepper" says:

      Said No One Ever

    • Snaves says:

      If by “years” you mean “several months,” then yes. If by years you mean actual years, I direct you to his double digit goal season last year for Spurs and his two goals against Germany last summer. He’s had a rough go of it, but he most definitely has not been out of form for “years.”

    • Hogatroge says:

      Honest question:

      Have you considered the fact that his “punk” habits might be a RESULT of his getting targeted more in MLS?

      • barkdog says:

        Have you considered that he has an entitlement complex and thinks he can get away with his dirty BS?

        • James says:

          These sentiments are so strange. His entitlement complex? This is the guy who has been lauded at home and abroad for keeping his head down and working hard for everything he gets. Now he has an entitlement issue?

          What dirty BS do you refer to? Please cite one example, beyond this past weekend, of dirty play?

          Once duece moved back the haters have been waiting for a reason to hate dempsey. Now they’re salivating and have latched on to one small incident. I say it all the time, but why you don’t people just say you really don’t like the guy? Why make yourself look so dumb by making up reasons that aren’t there?

          • UclaBruinGreat says:

            You are obviously a Dempsey fan which is fine. It’s funny though how if someone doesn’t agree with you in their “Dempsey loving”, they are “haters” and “dumb”. As I said above to Gary Page, if you’ve simply been consistently watching Dempsey play these last few years, you would have noticed his behavioral mishaps. He plays the game with an angry/ I>1tchy attitude which is good and bad. Good because he is determined and it helps him produce on the field. Bad because he can be cheap and dirty and off-putting.

            If I had the time and means to go through all the USMNT and Fulham/Spurs/Sounders video footage, I could put together a lengthy “Dirty Dempsey” video for you. But of course I don’t have the time nor means.

            • GW says:

              Having watched a fair amount of Deuce’s play at Fulham it seems to me his chippy play is pretty average for him and pretty normal for an EPL player who, as the main threat for Fulham and then the USMNT, had a target on his back for a long time. If he did not know how to take care of himself, defenders would have literally kicked him out of the game a long time ago..

              Dempsey is generally unloved by the US fans. At the beginning he was not particularly articulate, looked mostly like thug, and came across as surly. Until about 2009 he was liked then despised off and on. Then he had good run in the Confederations Cup followed a good World Cup and a good couple of years at Fulham and the USMNT. Then came the Spurs move.

              As soon as Dempsey’s career started to slide down most of the old criticisms came back. USMNT fans are nothing if not great front runners and fair weather type fans, always looking for the next big thing.
              His goal against TFC was a fine finish and if he keeps that up and does not get his legs broken he will be fine and the fans will come back. If not at least he has his money.

          • BB4 says:

            link to bigapplesoccer.com

            His elbows come up a LOT. I agree, this weekend was a big hubbub over nothing, but let’s not pretend Dempsey’s a saint, either.

      • Jake says:

        No…. he’s always been a bit of a punk its just getting more attention now

  6. Travis says:

    This applies to more than just USMNT players. The MLS still doesn’t do enough to protect the technical players who are making this league increasingly enjoyable to watch. It would be a shame if skilled players begin to shy away due to the potential injury risk associated with the league.

  7. Snaves says:

    Oh no! Fouled REPEATEDLY?!?

    • Snaves says:

      (In general it would be nice if MLS could crack down on people who foul skill players like Nagbe, Dempsey, Javi Morales, etc. seeing as those are the players that drive up the quality of play in MLS and letting defenders have their way with repeated infringement and hard fouls to stop these players not only puts players at risk, but also the quality of play in MLS, but complaining about “repeated fouling” just sounds funny and a little childish. “Top Flight Referrees” didn’t stop Johnny Evans’s cleats from going inside Stu Holden’s knee or Leonardo from breaking Tab Ramos’s skull. Injuries will happen)

      • JayAre says:

        Injuries will happen but when a player completely takes out Yedlin when he’s running by the we need to stop the play and call that back, The problem isn’t really hard fouls to me its more of the hard body checks when a defender gets beaten.

  8. Bean says:

    Was it just me, or did it seem like Bradley was going in hard against Deuce? I thought Bradley’s tackles against Deuce had a bit of an edge.

    • Nic D "The TX 2 Stepper" says:

      I thought Bradley was aggressive and fair. Jackson on the other hand was a disgrace. I don’t recall him trying to be an enforcer or “stirrer” here at FC Dallas. Maybe I was blinded.

      • Benjamin C. says:

        I agree about Bradley. He applied a lot of pressure to the player with the ball and did a good job cutting off passing lanes in midfield. Always loved this part of his game.

  9. Emcity says:

    Half of Dempsey’s “fouls” are just dives.

  10. Alexandria says:

    I do think the fouls have been crazy, but only 2 on Dempsey were egregious, the rest were just physical plays vs Bradley. I think if anyone has a complaint its Nagbe more than Dempsey.

    • Hogatroge says:

      Well, given that Nagbe wants to play for the USMNT (after his citizenship), I’m not happy about those tackles either!

      • EspinDOHla says:

        ETA on Nagbe’s citizenship? Will it be within the next year or two? I know he got married to a US citizen so that should expedite the process somewhat.

    • bb says:

      Last season I saw a lot of Dempsey being fouled the moment he touched the ball. Usually in the middle third, before he could get too dangerous in the attacking area. And it’s not just him, it’s a lot of players, if the player is *too good. It’s the equivalent of hack-a-Shaq. I don’t want to see against any player in the league. It’s dangerous for a talented player, and makes the game less exciting for a fan.

  11. euroman says:

    Clint holds to ball too much and makes himself a target. Let the ball flow….

    • Byrdman says:

      I agree this is part of the problem. It’s possible that “the 5 million dollar” label or whatever it is could be a little motivating for the guy making 40k. I don’t know if pro’s think that way but i would not be surprised.

      • Brian S. says:

        Beckham was a victim of the same type of tackles when he came to the league by people trying to make a name for themselves

        • Louis Z says:

          That only lasted his first season, I guess he expected special treatment. After that, he was just one of the guys, taking it and dishing it out.

  12. Expat4455 says:

    I watched the linked video. The last interaction shown was interesting. Dempsey and an opponent were racing to the ball, Clint gave his opponent a strong shoulder bump knocking him off the ball and an opponent following them then got tangled up with Dempsey with both of them falling down. As they were getting up Clint seemed angry and pushed the other guy’s leg.

    It seems to me Dempsey’s aggressive play is also part of the equation.

  13. Marco says:

    The whole league seems to be in that type of culture of physical play .I remember watching last years final rsl vs skc and was amazed at the amount of fouls the referees did not call . Is the problem with the referees association or the league to allow or want this type of soccer ?It shouldn’t have to be a Dempsey or star player that is protected but everybody straight across the board . I like to watch good soccer with skills and technique and i like to watch the good MLS games , but i am praying for the future when the MLS is just as good in skillful play and players as La Liga !

    • MidWest Ref says:

      I think that yours is a cogent point Marco. In other leagues, there are certainly some flashpoint matches, but the MLS game-in-game-out is more physical.

      Think about an Primera Liga game: a midfielder or striker feels a little pressure on his shoulder, goes down, and gets the call – almost all the time. In the MLS the defender grabs the shirt, grabs the arm, then gets a “shoulder to shoulder” and the referee allows play to continue.

  14. CCL Defending says:

    Defenders are rewarded for going beyond the rules in MLS, but then when it comes to tactical thinking defense in CCL, they don’t have it. Maybe if MLS defenders had to actually play against creative play, they would be better matched in CCL.

  15. Mike R says:

    This is why I hate when US players come to this Hack a Man league.
    I knew this would happen when Demosey and Bradley returned. The majority of the defenders here are talentless overly physical. I really believe there is so much hacking that refs don’t call it cause they know if they did every game would be 8 vs 8 by the 70th minute.

    Also, I believe that Is why England never does much in the WC because they always seem to have major players hurt or hobbled from their hack a man league also.

    That said while I will be pissed if Clint or Michael get hurt, it will be there own darn fault cause they know what the league is.

  16. Brian S. says:

    Why has there been no mention on here of Dempsey being suspended 2 games for his nut check.

    • Travis says:

      Last I heard that hadn’t been officially confirmed yet, there is nothing on the MLS or Sounders site. Twitter doesn’t count as an official source.

  17. Landon Klinsmann says:

    Soccer needs more officials. The pitch is just too big for one man to cover. This MLS thing is just a symptom of that problem. It may be better in more established leagues but it is so far from perfect that “better” is almost meaningless. At the pro level there are a million ways to nudge, shove, or just plain crash into somebody. Seems the like the lonely match official is always at a bad angle to judge the play and the linesmen are of little help.

  18. CSD says:

    Odd I didn’t see Micheal Bradley complaining and going to the ground and whining like a Biotch all game. Every game I seem to see Clint Dempsey play in these days he is always on the ground and he is always complaining and acting like everyone is out to get him. He is rolling around and whining in every USMNT game also but US fans tend to see no faults in the USMNT players.

    • CSD says:

      and Michael Bradley is a better player and he makes more money. So the everyone is out to get me is a bunch of crap. Shut up Clint.

  19. skyman says:

    This topic is long overdue. It is up to the refs to shape they type of game we want here in the US, and let’s face it, we are a very physical culture. It needs to be ramped way down. Watching Nagbe get mauled every f**king game drives me crazy.

    • Portland Don says:

      It is up to the league office and owners to demand close enforcement. The problem is that whenever refs are encouraged to call fouls, the fans, the coaches, the owners and the players complain and the enforcement collapses. The league and it’s owners are the only ones who can make a real difference, if they actually want to do it.

  20. Birgit Calhoun says:

    Why apply this statement only to Dempsey. I have seen fouls that are much worse against players in MLS. It doesn’t ring quite true when Klinsmann all of a sudden sees fouls but only when it concerns one of his favorite players. He has had a chance to say something about that before. My guess. A much more favorite player to be fouled is Lenhart at this point. And those fouls are often not called. Klinsmann needs to speak up against all bad refereeing especially the kind where the goalie elbows a player on purpose. Some of those fouls were, in my opinion, practiced. The heading of another person’s head is another pet peave of mine. That’s where some of the concussions come from. Dempsey and Lenhart may very well be retaliated against. If that is being perpetuated it’s only because coaches haven’t spoken up against it enough.

  21. NASL to El Paso tx says:

    Dempsey is a cry baby but I guess MLS is also a tough league and rugby league.

  22. Dennis says:

    With one referee and 2 assistants to watch 22 players, lots of things will get missed. Even with perfect positioning many things happen out of sight of the officials. Basketball typically uses 3 on the court officials to watch 10 players in a much smaller space and they miss some things. It has always been easy for coaches to encourage physical play to minimize another team’s skill or athletic advantage and, in truth, is the only weapon of an over-matched team.

    The usual level of physical play in the various leagues is, I think, as much due to the culture or mind set of the coaches and players as it is a result of officiating. (Of course, a referee who fails to punish flagrant behavior will find things escalating and a referee who calls every little touch in a high level game will find players getting frustrated and striking out.)

    College soccer with its liberal substitution rules and emphasis on high pressure, go-go defenses is partly to blame since that is where a lot of MLS players come from. Of course, that is not all, the Guatemalan community here has some teams that play on the weekend, typically each player puts $50 in the pot, the winning team takes the pot. Most of those games end in fights and are suspended before time expires. In those games, it is common practice to foul early and often, I am not sure any referee can make much difference when the stakes are high and the culture encourages rough play.

    Good on JK for speaking up against the culture of dangerous fouls.

    • Ali Dia says:

      Very true and a tough problem to solve. Bonus points for not dragging replay into this, which is mortifying for everybody except people who want TV commercials introduced to the gameplay.

      Eliminating the rough stuff that makes the game ugly is good, but inevitably people start gaming the enforcement. The criticisms of Barcelona are a classic example because anybody who watches them regularly knows that they are unfortunately valid. Sometimes it can be like watching somebody pour RC Cola on their Blue Label.

  23. Louis Z says:

    For a player that actively looks for the contact he should have tally more fouls.

  24. TBone says:

    Dempsey is a fading player and has been for well over a year. The fact that he couldn’t get on the pitch for a desperately poor Fulham side in need of all the help that they cold get speaks volumes. He’s never had much pace and he’s become significantly slower of late. He’s getting fouled because he’s getting caught in possession just as he did at Tottenham. Klinsmann needs to evaluate who is available to him much more objectively.