Open Cup gets a rip job, several actually

By Paul Kennedy

The Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers had played each other four times in the Open Cup before Tuesday night's troubles at the Starfire Sports Complex.

I recall working late one night in 2007 and needing to track down a late U.S. Open Cup score from Tukwila. Seattle beat Portland, 2-1, in an incident-filled game -- they were playing in the USL First Division in those days -- and I stumbled online to the Timbers' post-game audio broadcast and heard the noise of police sirens. The announcers reported that police had been summoned to the scene because the visiting Timbers fans were supposedly causing a disturbance. A riot at an Open Cup game?

The fact is, there was no trouble -- they were simply visiting fans, disappointed with the outcome of the game, and they were loud. No wonder the police were confused! Small as that contingent of Portland fans who had made the trek up I-5 was, it was clear then: There just might be something to this Cascadia thing.

Police showed up again at Starfire on Tuesday. Only this time there was trouble.

Incensed with the call of referee Daniel Radford on a red card to Michael Azira, Clint Dempsey -- the U.S. men's national team captain -- grabbed Radford's notepad and ripped it up. He received a red card, leaving the Sounders, already down to nine players but only trailing 2-1 in overtime before the red cards to Azira and Dempsey, with only seven players on the field. Dempsey and Azira departed to the roar of the Tukwila faithful, and Radford's crew needed a police escort.

Dempsey's actions -- assault on a referee's property -- lead to the question, how long will he be suspended and from what competitions?

There is precedence. In 2008, Mexican star Cuauhtemoc Blanco was suspended from the Open Cup for two years or the Chicago Fire's next six games, whichever was longer, for allegedly head-butting a D.C. United operations person as he was escorted from the field after being ejected from an Open Cup quarterfinal between the Fire and United at Maryland SoccerPlex. The ruling was issued by a five-member U.S. Soccer adjudication and discipline panel three weeks later. The sanctions did not carry over to MLS, but the league fined Blanco for $7,500 for “behavior detrimental to the public image and reputation of the League.”

An Open Cup suspension for Dempsey will surely be in order as might be a slap on the wrist for MLS in the form of a fine. Will it impact Dempsey's status on the national team? Very unlikely. But it does raise the question, should the U.S. national team be captained by a guy who pulls a stunt like Dempsey did on Tuesday night? (Who, indeed, should be the captain at the Gold Cup, in light of the recent run of form since Michael Bradley took the captain's armband from the absent Dempsey?)

Update: U.S. Soccer has a specific rule -- 202(1)(H)-2 -- covering referee assaults by players playing in pro leagues. Dempsey's actions -- grabbing the referee's notebook -- likely meet the definition of assault.  The policy calls for a minimum suspension of six games that cover all competitions. A six-game suspension would keep Dempsey out of the Gold Cup until the semifinals.

Sounders coach Sigi Schmid tried to bite his lip, as best he could, after Tuesday night's game. "I didn’t want to get thrown out, so I walked away,” he said. “I was maybe going to choke a referee so I walked away before I did something stupid.” But that didn't stop Schmid from ripping Radford. “I thought our guys played like lions," he said after the 3-1 loss. "I felt they left their heart out on the field, and I think they got robbed.” Open Cup suspension for Schmid?

The Sounders are MLS's Open Cup kings, defending champions and winners of the title in four of their last six seasons. The loss to Portland ended their 20-game unbeaten streak at Starfire -- their Open Cup home -- dating back to 2005 and their days in the USL. The Sounders have contributed greatly to the growth of the Open Cup -- Tuesday's Sporting KC-Saint Louis FC game drew more than 19,000 fans -- but at the end of the day do Dempsey and Schmid care?

Whether or not Dempsey and Schmid had a case with the refereeing doesn't give them the right to go off on a referee -- whether it's taking his notebook and ripping it apart or ripping him -- figuratively -- in the post-game press conference.

As long as the Open Cup is viewed as less important than MLS or the national team and penalties don't carry over, there will always be a little bit of a Wild West feel to the Open Cup and the risk that things will get out of hand like they did on Tuesday night.

41 comments about "Open Cup gets a rip job, several actually".
  1. Mike Jacome, June 17, 2015 at 6:38 p.m.

    "assault on a referee's property" LOL Give me a break!!

  2. Nicholas Adams, June 17, 2015 at 6:43 p.m.

    I'm in no way condoning their reactions but perhaps instead of fining the players the question needs to be asked AGAIN, about the training and overall standard of refereeing in America?

  3. Eric Schmitt, June 17, 2015 at 6:44 p.m.

    I think its laughable too, but unfortunately, the US Soccer rulebook on this is pretty clear. If you touch the ref or anything on his person, its assault, and its a minimum 3 month ban. The question is how US Soccer will choose to enforce it. Will it just be future USOC games, or will it be MNT games as well? The officiating may have sucked, but Deuce was stupid. He knew better but he did it anyway. He has no argument for whatever they decide to do to him.

  4. Rusty Welch, June 17, 2015 at 6:54 p.m.

    What Deuce did was wrong, not arguing that.
    If anyone wants to take the U.S. Open cup seriously though, then maybe they should start by getting the games televised... and not letting Daniel Radford or any of the other completely awful 'referees' work until they do some remedial training.
    The quality of refs in MLS & the Open Cup is an ongoing joke, and will become a major impediment to the growth of soccer in the U.S. if left unaddressed.

  5. Phil Hardy, June 17, 2015 at 6:59 p.m.

    What Rusty said, +1.

  6. Margaret Manning, June 17, 2015 at 7:07 p.m.

    How about this question: Should the oldest soccer competition in the US continue to be treated like cr^p by U.S. Soccer in its idiotic and manipulative scheduling AND its tolerance of p!ss poor officiating? Yet another game ruined by a bad ref. How about spending some of that FIFA money to develop professional referees here in the US?

  7. Margaret Manning, June 17, 2015 at 7:09 p.m.

    "Whether or not Dempsey and Schmid had a case with the refereeing doesn't give them the right to go off on a referee." I understand that Dempsey committed a cardable offense, but what are you saying about Sigi??

    Why wouldn't he go off on the referee? When is SOMEONE going to do something about the execrable performances we see more and more in MLS?

  8. uffe gustafsson, June 17, 2015 at 7:31 p.m.

    All of your comments are so wrong, this is why youth soccer gets to be a attack on their refs when coaches and parents see that it's ok do act like that by the stars.
    No wonder why all of us have hard time to keep refs at the youth level.
    Hope they give all of them maximum game suspensions. And Sigi the same. Shame on them.
    These is not how you represent your club or league. This league start to to look like NHL.
    Is that what will make people start cing to games.
    Think not.
    It's up to players and coaches to play good soccer, not refs to teach em how to play.
    Am I missing something.

  9. Rusty Welch, June 17, 2015 at 7:50 p.m.

    Uffe -
    Yes, you are missing a lot. I don't see anyone defending Clint's behavior. What I do see is people pointing out that the quality of referee's is so poor as to damage the game and risk injury to it's players. It's been an ongoing issue for MLS since it's inception, and it hasn't been getting any better. The refs don't have to 'teach' anyone how to play - but understanding the rules and applying them as fairly and accurately as possible would sure help. You can defend bad/inept referees if you want, but isn't that kind of like defending Clint's actions? Don't whitewash one in your haste to criticize the other.

  10. James Madison, June 17, 2015 at 8:04 p.m.

    I can't help wondering if any of the commentators (a) saw the match and (b) are licensed referees themselves. As a friend once told me, "Referees are part of the field; you play with what you get. The opposing team gets the same. It's not an excuse either for playing poorly or misbehaving."

  11. schultz rockne, June 17, 2015 at 8:09 p.m.

    Anyone who has watched Dempsey closely since he returned from Europe is not surprised by these actions. His petulance demonstrated on the field is, however interesting, directly proportional to the astronomical amount of money he now 'earns.' This outburst has been building, judging by his chronic gesturing and remonstrating with both referees and opponents in MLS--not to mention his one-sided goal-scoring celebrations (he scores: look how great I AM!; his TEAM scores: drops head, jogs almost disdainfully to the party corner). He's been doing this for years now. Says much about a player, if not a person. Yet (YET!), Klinsi handed him the captaincy. But don't expect U.S. Soccer to exact a worthy penalty because of this offensive, unprofessional, and thoroughly un-National team-like behaviour...they already dropped the proverbial notepad over the H. Solo debacle.

  12. Allan Lindh, June 17, 2015 at 8:09 p.m.

    Bradley has long been the grownup on the USMNT. Overdue that he wear the arm band. As for Dempsey, a few games without pay will get his attention, and not cripple the Sounder's season. Given his behavior, maybe they will be better w/o him.

  13. Rusty Welch, June 17, 2015 at 8:13 p.m.

    James -
    Yes, it was streamed on (the only way to watch it afaik). The issue we have with Mr. Radford is not only his bad decisions, but that both teams did NOT 'get the same', and the straight red to Azira was the icing on the cake for bad calls. I don't think anyone will defend what Clint did in reaction, or make excuses for his actions - we're just pointing out the incredible lack of quality in refereeing. Even if he had been equally bad to both teams, it wouldn't have made up for such a poor job. If you can't have professional, good quality referees then it's pretty hard to have professional, good quality games.

  14. Joe Linzner, June 17, 2015 at 8:23 p.m.

    while Dempsey's reaction was stupid and silly one has to ask. How did it get to such a point? Why are refereeing decisions not examined with the same criticism as a players reaction thereto. A long time ago in an AYSO game a referee allowed rough tackling which predictably got rougher and rougher and eventually one sliding tackle resulted in a broken leg on one of my players. At half time I had spoken to this guy that he is losing control of the game and his solution was to start handing out cards for the more egregious tackles,, at that point it was too late since the inconsitencies of rule enforcement was so confusing that the boys simply ignored the referee. Halfway through the second half, a broken leg. After I confronted him while the ambulance transported the boy to the ER I told him what I thought of his refereeing and not kindly. Gave me a red card as well.... There has to be respect among all participants, players, referee, coaches etc and when that erodes things like Seattle/Portland happen. The lynchpin in that equation is the referee. Bad calls, especially continually questionable calls quickly erode that respect. It is high time that referees are graded critically and professionalism becomes the norm not the exception!!!

  15. James e Chandler, June 17, 2015 at 9:13 p.m.

    People, people . . .
    can't you get it through your heads?
    There's no such thing as a competent soccer referee on the entire planet.
    What the heck. The vet referees from around the world to work in the World Cup Games, and after all that, Croatia got burned in game 1 against the host country, and the third place game was one of the worst officiated matches I've ever seen.

    I started to watch the replay of the Sea/Port match, and got busy, but I'm about to watch it now. Perhaps everyone's right, the guy did a bad job.
    One thing to remember. MLS has their own officials pool that has their own organization to represent them with the league. That's separate from the pool of referees sanctioned by USSF in their referee development program that works the US Open Cup matches.
    If this young man did a bad job as everyone asserts, I'm sure he feels pretty bad. It takes a lot of work to get to the level of proficiency, and respectability to even get that assignment, and he has to think all that has just taken a giant step backward.
    Yes, we need better officiating, but consider this. If players would quit deliberately breaking the laws of the game and trying to fool the referee, and if managers would stop teaching their players the idea that if you don't cheat, you're not trying, and it's not cheating if you don't get caught, then we could all see the referee as a facilitator for the celebration of life we call "the beautiful game."

  16. James e Chandler, June 17, 2015 at 9:26 p.m.

    To clarify my comment about how there's no such thing as a competent soccer referee, this is a few things that would be required.

    First, be able to move faster than the ball travels.
    Have a rubber neck, and x-ray eyes in both in the front and back of his head in lieu of being able to move faster than the speed of light to essentially be two places at once.

  17. James e Chandler, June 17, 2015 at 9:27 p.m.

    Assistant referees need two eyes that can move independently, one to watch the ball, and the other to watch the second to last defender.

  18. James e Chandler, June 17, 2015 at 9:39 p.m.

    Now everyone can't start talking about using goal line technology, and replay, etc, realize the importance of having the game standardized for everyone throughout the world. That Champions League Final should be much the same as an amateur adult league, or middle school girls.
    I like the goal line official idea, now having 6 sets of eyes, but not only does that add expense for our youth and rec leagues, but there just aren't enough referees to staff the games as it is.
    St, Louis high schools play most of their matches with just two officials instead of three.
    So if you want to complain, learn the LOTG, get certified, and see how many things you miss the first time you take up the whistle for a small sided youth match.

  19. Scott Johnson, June 17, 2015 at 9:47 p.m.

    I've said it before, I'll say it again. The problem with soccer referees, is there are too few of them. The NBA has three refs for a court one tenth the size. Baseball uses up to six umpires, and most of the action occurs at fixed locations (home plate and the three bases). American football uses a small army of referees and umpires and judges and assistants and timekeepers and such. There should be at least three referees on the pitch for major matches (a head ref who goes box to box, and two others who largely stay in one half of the pitch or the other), AND two linesmen for calling offsides and such. All field referees should have whistles and the ability to stop play. And I've no problem with using replay (if available) for sorting out matters of discipline.

  20. Ric Fonseca, June 17, 2015 at 9:51 p.m.

    James Chandler: Have you ever officiated/refereed any soccer game at ANY level?

  21. Tom Symonds, June 17, 2015 at 11:30 p.m.

    No one makes you angry...anger is a choice you make yourself. No one else made Dempsey walk over to the referee; no one else made him snatch the referee's notebook; no one else made him destroy it...when he could have just stayed out of it he chose not to -- he did all those things of his own free will. Dempsey chose to act in a classless, disrespectful, and unprofessional manner and deserves the prescribed punishment. Frankly, I hope Klinsi drops him from the USMNT...we absolutely don't need him or his poisonous ego.

  22. Kent James, June 17, 2015 at 11:32 p.m.

    James and Uffe are right; bad calls or not, tearing up a ref's notebook and walking away because you were "going to choke the referee" are completely out of line, and need to be punished accordingly. Dempsey has always been a hot head, show off, which may have helped him become a creative player, but he does have a lot of negatives as well. He's never struck me as captain material, but I've never observed him in training nor do I know how he interacts with his teammates. But Shultze, I think you're on to something, and Allan is right about Bradley.

  23. Kenneth Barr, June 17, 2015 at 11:43 p.m.

    Having been a ref at the youth and military level, I find the assault by Clint Dempsey to be nothing short of worthy of a six month ban from all competitions. The Laws and the Letters of Instruction concerning treatment of match officials state quite clearly that any assault, be it physical or directed at the officials property (his book which contains the official record of the match until that information is transferred to a report form) will not be tolerated and discipline will applied severely. Right now the game is under attack from those who would like nothing better than to see it driven from our shores. While it isn't getting the publicity of the Hope Solo "case" and the FIFA shenanigans, all it takes is for one national commentator to get their hands on the match video and look out. In other American sports, Dempsey would be looking at least a season's ban and a hefty fine. US Soccer cannot afford to be seen as weak or indecisive, Dempsey must go and for at least 6 months. He can't be selected for Gold Cup or Copa duty.

    As for the referee, having watched the video of the entire match, his performance was less than stellar. That happens in cup competitions where the entire eligible officials list is used rather than just the league list. One solution would be to use only the league list for ties involving MLS sides. The highest ranked side in the tie should determine the level officials. This is also a problem in European cup competitions so perhaps IFAB should set a ruling concerning level of officiating in these situations. Mr. Radford looked slightly overwhelmed by the pace and skill of the two sides and had trouble with his positioning. He wasn't awful but he appeared to be used to a lower level of skill. He is not a MLS PRO ref and probably should not have been assigned this match, especially since it was between two MLS sides. This places everyone; officials, players and team officials in a bind. You want the top officials working with the top players, not someone from a lower level. Therefore, I return to my previous statement. A MLS PRO officating crew should have been assigned to this USOC tie and any other that involves an MLS side regardless of the opposition.

  24. Kenneth Barr, June 17, 2015 at 11:46 p.m.

    FYI, the MLS PRO list can be found at:

  25. Kent James, June 17, 2015 at 11:49 p.m.

    Since I could only see a poor quality video of the straight red card, I have no idea whether it was justified or not. But I will guarantee that the ref on the game has done hundreds (if not thousands) of games, and that his goal was not to "blow" the game. Referees on professional games are assessed on every game they do, so everything they do is scrutinized and evaluated. While there are refs that are "look at the power I have, let me show everyone what I can do" type refs, most of those will never do that level of game. So when a ref gives a red card at that level, it is usually not done lightly, but more often a ref has to say "do I have the backbone to give a red card, even though one team (and its fans) will never forgive me for it". And yes, one bad game can ruin a referees career, a career which pays poorly, can take a toll on family life (since it usually requires working evenings and weekends, in addition to one's regular job), has a limited lifespan (at the highest levels). So even when the refs make poor calls, they deserve the respect of the teams and the players (it would be nice if the fans respected them as well, but that may be asking a bit too much). That's not to say people have to agree with the calls they make, but ref-bashing will certainly not attract more people to the profession, and limiting the supply certainly cuts down on the possibility of developing good refs.

  26. Zoe Willet, June 18, 2015 at 1:19 a.m.

    For goodness sakes, people, leave Hope Solo out of this conversation! It is apples and oranges; what she 'allegedly' did was totally unrelated to soccer; she was never found guilty of anything.

  27. Rick Estupinan, June 18, 2015 at 3 a.m.

    There is no question that Dempsey has a terrible bad temper.I have seen it in so many games.Just look at the way he reacts for any minor incident against him.Some times if he can't win a good dribbling spree,he would fall,pretending he was fowl and waits for the referee to punish the guy who just merely touch him.If he doesn't get it,then he gets up slowly and with a look in his eyes like he is ready to kill the other guy.It is a shame because he really tries very hard to do good for his team.But I think that after this he should be penalized financially and suspended for at least 3 games.

  28. Paul Amato, June 18, 2015 at 10:19 a.m.

    Although Dempsey's actions are inexcusable, severe bans don't fit the crime. Mind you that Brian Mullens awful tackle on Steve Zakuani only resulted in a 10 match ban which equates to several months. His tackle ended Steve's career prematurely. How about Luis Suarez biting Chiellini resulted in a 4 month ban. As Dempsey's actions did not result in any harm to anyone, maybe the official's ego, his punishment should fit the crime.

  29. Rusty Welch, June 18, 2015 at 12:25 p.m.

    One last thought for all the Dempsey-haters out there: Watch some matches, and count how many times he gets hacked, kicked, and fouled. There are quite a few players in this league who are not at the same skill level, and resort to nefarious tactics against Deuce.
    Again, not excusing his behavior with the ref at all, just pointing out that the man gets hacked on a regular basis, and if you faced the same constantly you might get a little frustrated by that type of play as well.

  30. James e Chandler, June 18, 2015 at 12:29 p.m.

    Sorry. When I read " . . pretending he was fowl . . " I pictured Clint pecking at the air, and flapping his arms.
    He kind of did that in the Assistant Referee's face afterwards. That's worth a another red card in itself.
    Ric, you're not going to make be go back and count them, are you? How do you think I know about that eyes in the back of the head thing. I try to get the players to believe I have them so they'll behave better.

  31. Santiago 1314, June 18, 2015 at 12:34 p.m.

    @ Schultz,...Agree with you on Dempsey (Petulant Whiner)(Always has been, since I saw him playing since 12yrs old)...BUT, like ZOE says, DON'T Pull a..Brian Williams and Conflate the "Hands" Solo incident with Dempsy...Hope is Innocent Until Proven Guilty...AND The JUDGE DISMISSED THE CASE....USSF, would look Stupid (and be Sued) if they got involved. ..

  32. Santiago 1314, June 18, 2015 at 12:39 p.m.

    @ James e,...You are Correcta Mundo!!! REFs SUCK Everywhere!!!... Just got to Deal with it. .BUT,...NEVER, NEVER, NEVER, Touch One !!!!.... That's Assault. .. Stupid Dempsey. ..Never was the Brightest Bulb in the Socket. .

  33. Santiago 1314, June 18, 2015 at 12:40 p.m.

    @Kenneth,.. Excellent Reasoning and Documentation, as Always. ..

  34. James e Chandler, June 18, 2015 at 12:57 p.m.

    someone suggested more than one whistle on the field.
    It's really not necessary. The Assistant referees communicate to the center referee with their flags, hand signals, and now electronic headsets, and he can sound his whistle.
    I did go back and watch this game, and it didn't look like the referee did as badly as everyone says. If he had problems, it was having players give him any credibility. He seemed to be trying to be a bit over-involved, like standing next to an injured player during treatment on the field.
    On the card worthiness of the foul that occurred preceding Dempsey's demonstration, the player stomped down on the back of the player's ankle. If you watch in the background as he's answering other player's questions, at least twice he demonstrates a stomping motion with his foot. He seems to have honestly felt it had the intent to injure. That's a straight red card.
    Clint needs to issue an apology. That's the only way he might restore any respectability.

  35. Ginger Peeler, June 18, 2015 at 4:38 p.m.

    As I said in a comment elsewhere, "the referee is always right, even when he's wrong." If you have a problem with the ref, then the coach can file a complaint. I happen to like Clint, and I've seen him battered over and over again by opposing players. Obvious fouls that the ref fails to call. So Dempsey gets really frustrated. After all, the referee is responsible for seeing that all 22 player on the field are held to TLOTG. This will minimize injuries. But some refs allow forwards to get hammered repeatedly and they do nothing about it.

  36. Ginger Peeler, June 18, 2015 at 4:51 p.m.

    When the players realize the refs are NOT protecting them, they get frustrated and act out. Since Clint's returned to MLS, he's been the target of lots of questionable tackles. Sometimes he gets repeatedly flattened when playing for the USMNT. I've have watched him get in the face of referees on several occasions. And I've been waiting for him to be carded. The problem is, this seems to be the first time he's been called out for cardable behavior. And he had started to feel entitled. So how do we get our refs to call dissent, rather than drawing a player aside for a little talk? As I said, I like Dempsey, but he's been allowed to get away with bad behavior for so long, he Really ripped it. Foolish, stupid move. Never would have happened if the refs called the games according to the rules.

  37. James e Chandler, June 19, 2015 at 9:15 a.m.

    If he's that frustrated, and he's not having fun playing a game, then he should quit.
    Why is it always the referee's fault?
    No player is entitled to any more protection than any other even if they are the "former" captain of the MNT, and have played in the EPL. Yes, forwards get fouled, but they commit a lot of them too. Ever seen Carlos Ruiz play?
    Please don't make excuses for him. There are none.

  38. Joe Linzner, June 19, 2015 at 11:27 a.m.

    Yes I have refereed and am quick to admit that it is a thankless assignment. However, never lost control of a game. Even admitted during a game that I missed that call....Refs are human, will make mistakes, have to tread a fine line between fair and overly strict. There should be a secondary reprimand mechanism other than cards. Perhaps formal notebook entries for repeat questionable actions, then after repeated entries a yellow, then into red if that continues.

  39. Ginger Peeler, June 19, 2015 at 5:22 p.m.

    James, I made no excuses for Dempsey! None!!! I started my comments with "the referee is always right, even when he's wrong". That's what both my kids were taught when they played. You never touch, argue with. swear at (or near) the referee. It's not like baseball, basketball or football. Mouth off at a referee and you may find yourself out of the game. That is FACT. If you disagree with the ref, keep it to yourself. I grew up in the military, where it's, "Yes, sir. No excuse, sir."

  40. Ginger Peeler, June 19, 2015 at 5:58 p.m.

    There was no excuse for Dempsey's behavior and that's what I said. But referees take on certain responsibilities when they take the field. Both my kids were accredited youth referees and I sometimes sat in on the classes with them. They were advised that the better players on the teams can be identified within a short time after the game begins. And that those same players will be fouled more often than the others. Again, the referee is watching out for the safety of ALL of the players, but injuries are more likely to be suffered by the best players because they are fouled so often. So, the ref DOES need to pay careful attention to protect players, like Dempsey, from questionable fouling. So, I can understand the frustration. But there is never, ever, any excuse for what Dempsey did. Read TLOTG and you'll see.

  41. Rick Estupinan, June 21, 2015 at 11 p.m.

    Well James,you know what I mean... If looks could kill...

    Changing the subject,I must say the inexperienced referee completely lost it in this game.

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