The other shoe dropped on Clint Dempsey on Thursday, as the U.S. Soccer Federation’s U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel voted to fine the Seattle Sounders star and suspend him from participating in the tournament for six games or two years, whichever lasts longer.
The sanction comes six days after he was suspended for three MLS matches by league commissioner Don Garber. Dempsey was ejected from the Sounders’ June 16 Open Cup loss to the rival Portland Timbers after an extra-time tantrum, during which he grabbed referee Daniel Radford's notebook, ripped it and threw it to the ground.
The MLS suspension will expire after this weekend, leaving Dempsey eligible to play for the U.S. in July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. He was named to coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s tournament roster on Tuesday. But Dempsey, 32, may never play in another Open Cup tournament. He won the trophy last year and scored the winning goal in the Sounders’ 3-1 road win over the Philadelphia Union in the final. It was his first major honor at the club level.
As a result of Thursday’s decision, Dempsey won’t be available to play in another Open Cup until 2018 at least, and early eliminations for the Sounders could leave him on the sidelines for much longer. An MLS club must play five games to win the Cup under the current format.
The Open Cup committee that decided Dempsey’s fate is chaired by USSF executive VP Mike Edwards and comprises unnamed representatives from MLS, the NASL, the USL, the amateur game and one player who’s not involved in the competition. The committee was not bound by the Federation’s regulations regarding referee assault or abuse that apply to the professional leagues. It assessed only the incident in question.
The fines levied to Dempsey by both U.S. Soccer and MLS were undisclosed. The six games include the automatic one-game ban resulting from the red card.
The six games/two years ban is similar to the one handed to former Chicago Fire forward Cuauhtémoc Blanco in 2008 after he was ejected from a quarterfinal loss to D.C. United. Blanco punched D.C. midfielder Clyde Simms and, after being ejected, head-butted a United staffer trying to convince him to leave the field.
Absent Dempsey and the injured Obafemi Martins, the Sounders (9-6-2) have suffered two straight shutout losses—to the San Jose Earthquakes on June 20 and the Union on Wednesday. Seattle will visit Portland on Sunday.