MLS suspends Seattle Sounders' Clint Dempsey for three games following US Open Cup incident

The Seattle Sounders will have to do without Clint Dempsey for the remainder of the month of June.

Major League Soccer announced on Friday that Dempsey has been suspended three games and fined an undisclosed amount for his conduct toward a match official during a Lamar Hunt US Open Cup match against the Portland Timbers at Starfire Stadium on Tuesday night.

The confrontation began in the 113th minute of extra time, with Seattle trailing their Cascadia rivals 2-1 and down to nine men following a red card to Brad Evans and an injury to Obafemi Martins. Dempsey came on in the 71st minute of what would be a 3-1 defeat (FULL HIGHLIGHTS).

Following a red card to Michael Azira for a challenge on Timbers’ forward Gaston Fernandez that left Seattle with eight players, Dempsey took referee Daniel Radford’s notebook and threw it to the turf, drawing a yellow card for dissent in the 114th minute. He then picked up the notebook and tore it up, drawing a straight red card for abuse, according to the official match report.

“We do not tolerate conduct of this nature from any of our players,” MLS Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott said in a statement. “No matter how passionate our players are or what happens in the ‘heat of the moment,’ they must always respect all aspects of the game, especially the referees. In light of Clint’s actions and our past precedents, we felt that a significant suspension was appropriate.”

While the incident took place outside MLS league competition, any alleged actions by a professional player against a referee during Open Cup competition is adjudicated and disciplined by the professional league. In this case MLS had jurisdiction to review the incident and levy sanctions per Policy 202(1)(H)-2 in the U.S. Soccer Policy Manual.

The US Open Cup Adjudication and Disciplinary Panel is responsible for handing down sanctions pertaining to Open Cup play.

According to the Policy Manual, the charge of Referee Abuse carries a minimum three-game suspension, with the suspended individual precluded from participating in any soccer competition until the suspension has expired.

Dempsey will not be available for Sounders matches against San Jose (6/20), Philadelphia (6/24) and Portland (6/28). He will conclude his suspension in time to join the US national team for the Gold Cup, which begins on July 7.

As of Friday afternoon, the US Open Cup Adjudication and Disciplinary Panel had gathered evidence, including the report of the referee and the match commissioner, video of the incident, and was conducting interviews with the relevant parties, according to U.S. Soccer. A hearing will be conducted next week, and any decision made by the Panel on further sanctioning will pertain only to future Open Cup tournament competition.

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