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Mar 27, 2014

Clint Dempsey 'disappointed' by ban

ESPN FC's Alejandro Moreno discusses the MLS' popularity issues and how they can improve.

SEATTLE -- Clint Dempsey didn't have much to say about the two-game suspension he received from Major League Soccer. Fourteen words to be exact.

Clint Dempsey will enter the U.S.' friendly against Mexico after having not played for two weeks.
Bennett: MLS in the shadows

"Disappointed. I don't agree with it. It is what it is and move on," Dempsey said after the Seattle Sounders wrapped practice on Thursday.

The real concern for some is that the suspension came right before a major U.S. national team exhibition against Mexico next Wednesday. By the time Dempsey takes the field against Mexico in Glendale, Ariz., it will have been more than two weeks since Dempsey last played.

And while it's just a friendly, it's significant because it will be the last U.S. match before World Cup camp begins in May.

"It's a friendly, it's not a World Cup qualifier so there's not much pressure that there would be if it was a World Cup qualifying game," Dempsey said. "But it's still exciting to represent your country and to play against one of your rivals."

Dempsey was suspended and fined for violent conduct toward Toronto FC defender Mark Bloom in a March 15 match. Dempsey hit Bloom in the stomach/groin area, a blow not seen by officials but that was captured by television cameras. Dempsey said after the match that he was trying to slap Bloom's hand off his back and did not intend to strike his body.

The MLS players union appealed but the suspension was upheld. Dempsey sat last week when Seattle won at Montreal and will be a spectator Saturday when the Sounders host Columbus. He'll return to MLS play on April 5 when Seattle travels to rival Portland.

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann was one of Dempsey's most vocal supporters after the suspension was announced. He was quick to point out the number of fouls Dempsey has taken since returning to MLS.

"It's very disappointing to see Clint be the only person punished from this game," Klinsmann said last week. "There is a foul against him in the sixth minute that should have been a red card. The persistent fouling continued throughout the game, and he's getting punished for a reaction following all those fouls. Yes he made a mistake, but if opponents don't get penalized for consistently fouling, it only encourages them to continue that approach."

According to stats provided by MLS, Dempsey is the most fouled player in the league since Aug. 10 of last season. Dempsey, the U.S. captain, appreciated Klinsmann's concern.

"Yeah, for sure it's always good that the manager has your back and I appreciate that," Dempsey said. "All I can do is keep working hard and keep working on my fitness after training and making sure I play well when I'm with the national team, like I have 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."

Dempsey said one solution to the fouls would be for more yellow cards to be handed out earlier in the match. He believes that could create a better rhythm to the game.

"I think it's important to protect every player," Dempsey said. "The sooner you start giving the cards for reckless fouls then it cuts down on a lot of things and it makes the game more exciting to watch because there is more free flow to it."

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