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MLS chief Don Garber condemns De Jong tackle: 'There's no place for that'

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- MLS Commissioner Don Garber made his first public comments about the tackle from LA Galaxy midfielder Nigel de Jong that injured Portland Timbers midfielder Darlington Nagbe, and took aim at comments made by Galaxy manager Bruce Arena, calling them "absurd and irresponsible."

Nagbe was injured in the second half of Sunday's 1-1 tie between the two teams, with many fans and media taking the position that De Jong -- who only received a yellow card for the foul -- should incur supplemental discipline.

Garber, speaking to reporters following an event hosted by USL side and expansion hopeful the Sacramento Republic, agreed.

"There's no place for that kind of play in MLS," said Garber. "We'll be announcing his suspension soon and it will be in line with similar nasty tackles."

Speaking to the media following Wednesday's training session, Arena sought to defend De Jong. He characterized the play as "a mistimed tackle," but then blamed "hysteria" among the media and others for the push to suspend De Jong.

"If that was any other player in that tackle, it would not have received the hysteria that it has," Arena told the team's website. "I think the press and others have failed miserably in reporting the incident and what actually happened. 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."

Arena added: "Hysteria is the fault of social media. It's the fault of people in MLS and in the offices that do that and feeds the whole thing. And the journalism.

La Galaxy midfielder Nigel De Jong
Nigel de Jong's tackle on Darlington Nagbe has brought the Dutch midfielder under scrutiny.

"No one's actually interviewed the player, anything like that. It's been blown out of proportion but rightfully so because of how everyone wanted to make this player into a villain. And obviously, with the incidents he's had previously it invites that. We understand that."

Garber took issue with that characterization, and defended the role that the media, and in particular Fox broadcaster Stuart Holden -- whose leg was broken due to a De Jong tackle back in 2010 -- for the way they reported the incident.

"It's an absurd and irresponsible comment to think that the league would want to promote something that negatively reflects on our game," said Garber. "It's just ridiculous. Stuart [Holden] has a very personal experience with Nigel. That's what broadcasters do. That debate is something that the media is entitled to drive on its own, and a league is not part of that process.

"Bruce is part of our Technical Committee. He's one of the leaders of the sport in our country, and I know that he has been an advocate for ensuring that we're not having dangerous and reckless tackles on the field.

"When I thought about his comments -- because I read them -- it said to me, and in many ways I respect, that coaches need to defend their players, particularly a guy like Nigel who I understand is a good guy. But to think that we intentionally created this narrative is just ridiculous."

Garber added that the intention of applying supplementary discipline was to punish the act and nothing more.

"I've heard from Bruce Arena, I've heard from Chris Klein, and I've heard from some players," said Garber. "Nigel is a good guy. I don't think we should be attacking him as a man. We should do everything in our power to not have that kind of play on our field.

"That's not coming from Don Garber, Todd Durbin and our Disciplinary Committee. That's coming from our owners, that's coming from our coaches, the Technical Committee. And all of the postgame discipline that we do, in partnership with our [players'] union, is very, very specific to protect our players. And particularly our goal scorers and our star players, those ones that people pay to see.

"It's not the first time something like this has happened in our game, not just by Nigel, but by others, and it's just something that we all as a sport need to work to eliminate. But I'm sure we'll have this discussion again at some point soon about another player and another bad tackle."

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