Sounders FC

Dempsey suspended three games for Open Cup incident

Major League Soccer has suspended Seattle Sounders forward Clint Dempsey for three games, starting with the club’s Saturday home match against San Jose.

The suspension results from Dempsey’s actions Tuesday, when he tore and threw the referee’s notebook during a U.S. Open Cup loss to Portland.

Although the Cup is not an MLS tournament, the league cited jurisdiction under the U.S. Soccer Policy Manual because the actions were taken “by an MLS player against a referee during any club competition.”

One day earlier, Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer had publicly expressed regret on this and other incidents during the Open Cup competition, and said internal discipline was being determined. The club sent out its own news release on Friday after the MLS announcement including a note that “Dempsey will serve his suspension during the next three league matches.” Those would include the Earthquakes’ visit at 1 p.m. Saturday, a match at Philadelphia on Wednesday and the rivalry game next weekend at Portland.

The suspension comes at an especially bad time for the Sounders, who also learned this week that forward Obafemi Martins will be out three to six weeks with a groin injury suffered in the Open Cup match.

With seven goals each, Dempsey and Martins have accounted for 14 of the Sounders’ 23 goals in MLS play. Forward Chad Barrett, who has three goals, also is out with a hamstring injury.

“There are options we can have and things that we can do,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “We went into a 4-2-3-1 against Kansas City and were unlucky not to get a better result there, so that’s an option.”

Even under normal circumstances, the Earthquakes have been a difficult match for the Sounders. And that proved true again in their first meeting this season.

That match started encouragingly as Dempsey put the Sounders ahead in the 18th second — the earliest goal in club history. However, the game also marked Brad Evans’ second start in what then was an experiment of seeing if he could play center back. That day was his roughest, as he was conspicuously involved in all San Jose goals as the Quakes rallied for a 3-2 win.

Since then, things have turned dramatically better along the Sounders’ back line.

Seattle heads into this rematch with the best record in MLS and the fewest goals allowed. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei has the most wins, the most shutouts and the most saves.

Meanwhile, the Earthquakes rank third from the bottom in goals scored. Former MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski has eight goals, but no other Quake has more than one.

“They’ve had our number for the last two seasons,” Schmid said. “It’s definitely been a team for some reason that’s been a little bit more difficult for us. That’s something that we need to focus on to change that around.”