Jurgen Klinsmann is worried.
The US national team manager feels that since Clint Dempsey's return to MLS last summer, he has been the target of excessive foul play by opposing MLS teams.
"Obviously we are a little bit worried about Clint Dempsey getting fouled I don't how many times in this game against Toronto," Klinsmann said in a video distributed by US Soccer. "Your key players, in a certain way, you want them to be a little bit protected in a way that people can't overdo it."
Dempsey was fouled six times in the Sounders' home defeat against Toronto FC last weekend, tied for the second-highest total for any player in an MLS game since Aug. 10, Dempsey's first game back after his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur.
And since that August match, Dempsey is also No. 1 on the MLS list for fouls suffered per 90 minutes with 3.6 (minimum 300 minutes played).
"This was one of the main issues already when he came back to MLS last fall," Klinsmann said. "They really kind of banged him in every game. I mean fouled over the edge. I hope that MLS is having an eye on that.
"What I saw there on the weekend [vs. Toronto FC], there were certain things not within the rules in any more. So I hope our players get protection because they need to be healthy going into this World Cup."
Dempsey and the Seattle Sounders travel to face the Montreal Impact on Saturday, March 22 (4 pm ET, Univision Deportes).
Most Fouled MLS Players Per 90 Mins (since Aug. 10, 2013 / minimum 300 mins)
1. Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders) - 3.6
2. Dimitry Imbongo (New England Revolution) - 3.3
3. Steven Lenhart (San Jose Earthquakes) and Patrick Nyarko (Chicago Fire) - 3.2
4. Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake) and Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers) - 3.1