LA Galaxy midfielder Nigel de Jong will be suspended for at least Friday’s match at Houston (7 pm ET on UniMás) for his tackle on the Timbers’ Darlington Nagbe in LA's 1-1 draw against Portland at StubHub Center on Sunday, Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena told reporters on Wednesday.
The league hasn’t yet announced exactly how long De Jong will be punished for his 73rd-minute tackle on Nagbe, for which the Dutch midfielder received a yellow card. A decision from the MLS Disciplinary Committee is expected before Friday.
Arena didn’t know just how long De Jong will be suspended, but he made clear to reporters at StubHub Center on Wednesday that he believes De Jong’s punishment will be more a product of his reputation and social media outcry than the challenge itself.
“I think it’s hysteria,” Arena said. “I think, obviously, Nigel has to understand this; he has a reputation that precedes him. If that was any other player in that tackle, it would not have received the hysteria that it has. I think the press and others have failed miserably in reporting the incident and what actually happened.”
De Jong – who, it should be noted, has only been sent off twice in 567 career matches for club and country – does have a history of rough tackles. The 31-year-old broke two opponents’ legs in 2010 and infamously kicked Xabi Alonso in the chest during the 2010 World Cup final.
Nagbe had to be stretchered off the field and wheeled into the locker room on Sunday. He met with Timbers team doctors in Portland on Monday and was eventually diagnosed with a sprained ankle and a contusion. He missed Portland’s 3-1 home loss to Dallas on Wednesday; the club has not given a timeline for his return.
Arena blamed the press and social media for the outcry, and contended that Nagbe was carrying an ankle injury heading into the match.
“I think the press and others have failed miserably in reporting the incident and what actually happened,” he said. “The player probably wasn’t hurt on the tackle, which no one has reported. Darlington Nagbe is a great kid and a great player, and we certainly don’t want him to be injured on a bad tackle. I think it was a mistimed tackle by Nigel. A bad tackle on that play is going to the ground and going over the ball with excessive force. That was not the case on that play.
“From my understanding of our doctor was that he received a bruise. The ankle injury was there before the game. He had an injured ankle coming into the game. He went down 10 minutes before that. Then obviously all the hysteria was there. If it’s another player, it’s not as publicized.”
When contacted by MLSsoccer.com, the Portland Timbers confirmed that Nagbe was injury-free entering the match and that he was injured specifically on the De Jong tackle, which forced the Timbers player out of the match.
Arena did tell reporters that the Galaxy “don’t condone the tackle, it was a mistimed tackle, it was not a vicious tackle.”
“What I know of Nigel in our short time together is he’s a great player and person, and he wasn’t trying to hurt the player, believe me,” Arena said. “It was mistimed. As a tackle, it’s clearly a yellow card and arguably a red card – there’s no excuse for it. Fortunately, it wasn’t a tackle that injured the player.”
De Jong apologized to Nagbe after Sunday’s match, and met with reporters following the game, saying it was never his intention to hurt the Timbers playmaker.
“It was a ball that came my way. It was 50-50, and normally I always have those balls,” he said on Sunday. “But I went over the ball and caught the ball a little bit and caught most of his ankle. It was a pity, it was never my intention to hurt him. He’s a good kid as well, and I said that after game.
“It’s a pity, but that’s football, as well. It was never my intention, and when a ball comes in that situation, you always go for it 100 percent. Unfortunately, I caught him.”
The Galaxy will face the Dynamo in Houston at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday night (7 pm ET; UniMas in the US, MLS LIVE in Canada).