Seattle Sounders FC designated player Clint Dempsey, who was punished for violent conduct in the March 15 game against Toronto FC, said Thursday that he disagrees with the two-game suspension imposed by the Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee and is disappointed by it.
However, Dempsey said he appreciates the support from U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who called the punishment harsh and implied Dempsey’s actions wouldn’t have been necessary had the referee taken control of the game earlier.
“It’s always good to know that the manager has your back, and I appreciate that,” Dempsey said.
“All I can do is keep working hard, keep working on my fitness after training and make sure that I play well when I’m with the national team — like I’ve always done in the past — and make sure I keep playing good with the national team moving forward and pay him back for his faith in me.”
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The two-game suspension came after Dempsey swatted Toronto FC defender Mark Bloom below the belt. Dempsey said the location of the contact was accidental and that he had been trying to knock away Bloom’s arm.
Dempsey served the first game of the suspension Sunday, when Seattle won at Montreal, 2-0. The second missed match will be Saturday, when the Columbus Crew visits CenturyLink Field.
After that, Dempsey will join the U.S. national team for its friendly against Mexico on Wednesday. Sounders teammates Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin also have been called in for that match in Glendale, Ariz.
“There’s not as much pressure as there would be if it were a World Cup qualifying game,” Dempsey said. “But it’s still exciting to represent your country and to play against your rivals. You always want to do well when you’re putting on the jersey for the U.S.”
Dempsey will be free to return to the Sounders in time for another rivalry game: the April 5 match at Portland. However, he said that one isn’t on his mind yet.
“I’m thinking about this weekend, hoping the boys do well,” Dempsey said. “I’m excited they got three points in Montreal. So, (I’m) just looking to this weekend. You only look to the next game.”
A second-half substitution on Sunday marked the MLS debut for Micheal Azira, a midfielder/defender from Uganda who joined the Sounders after playing the past two seasons at Charleston (USL-Pro).
“It’s like everyone’s dream come true,” Azira said. “It’s a big step in soccer for anybody right now. If you can get to play in the advanced level, you get to play better. It was a good step for my life, for my family. It’s a good experience.”
The game also marked debuts of different kinds for a couple of other Sounders.
Veteran forward Cam Weaver of Kent made his first appearance with the club after signing late in training camp. Defender Leo Gonzalez appeared for the first time this season after recovering from a groin injury.
“(Azira) came in, and he played wide right for us and helped DeAndre on that side of the field,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought he was solid. Leo, we used him at times in prior seasons as a late sub, sometimes when he was a sub to help close out games for us on the left-hand side. He did that very well. Then the choice of Weaver at the end was he’s an experienced player who has had to figure out a way to get games across the end line before, and he helped us do that.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org/soccer