De Jong? Disgraceful

By Paul Gardner

Not much point in mincing words over this one. In its 4-0 loss to Santos Laguna the LA Galaxy was frankly pathetic. Outplayed, out-thought, out-skilled, utterly humiliated. A night to forget for Bruce Arena and his players as the quicker, sharper Mexicans ran rings around them.

With only a few minutes remaining in the game, Santos -- totally in charge -- was passing the ball confidently around in midfield, barely taking matters seriously at this point. The game was already over, had been over really after 36 minutes when the score was already 3-0.

The Galaxy had been looking bad, and was about to look considerably worse. They were about to disgrace themselves. Not all of them -- in fact only one of them, their new acquisition, midfielder Nigel de Jong.

For his 87th minute foul on Ulises Davila, de Jong was immediately yellow-carded. He was lucky to escape a red card.

The foul is worth some study, because it tells us a lot about just what sort of a player de Jong is. This was a violent tackle from behind, during which de Jong did not play the ball, but managed to plant his studs firmly into the back of Davila’s right ankle -- the vulnerable Achilles’ tendon area.

What was de Jong doing, making a tackle of that sort in the final minutes of a game that his team had clearly lost? What was he doing tackling so violently in midfield -- the play took place near the halfway line, some 8 yards inside the Galaxy half. When he was tackled, Davila actually had his back to the Galaxy goal. It was a situation that presented absolutely no threat at all to the already blitzed Galaxy goal.

An innocuous situation that did not require any sort of challenge at all. But de Jong evidently felt the need to launch himself, studs first, at Davila. A nasty, unnecessary, spiteful, dangerous foul. Why? If Arena should still have any doubts, this tackle should have opened his eyes to what sort of player he has signed.

Yet ... there will be those ready to make excuses for de Jong’s thuggery. Brad Friedel, for instance, who was the analyst on the telecast for this game (as an aside, I would have thought his employment by the USSF as the coach of the under-19 national team would have precluded moonlighting).

Friedel stated that de Jong’s foul definitely deserved a yellow card, and then gave us this: “The [MLS] referees are gonna have to get used to how he does go into challenges. He does go in hard. He’s a nice guy, he doesn’t go in to injure people. But that is his style, that’s his game. Some MLS officials, they’ll take offense at some of his tackles, but hopefully there’s good communication throughout -- I always think it’s better when the referees communicate with players.”

So it’s the referees who have to adjust? Is Friedel for real? All the referees have to do is to apply the rules and give the cards. Which will mean de Jong will average at least one yellow card per game and his usefulness to the Galaxy will be severely limited by suspensions.

It should be -- must be -- de Jong who does the adjusting.

As for referees talking to players -- this is something that Friedel has picked up in England, where chatting with players is considered good “man management.” Possibly -- but it should be noted that the chats invariably mean that a referee is being lenient with players who have committed fouls.

De Jong presents a problem for MLS referees. Friedel must know that de Jong’s reputation is anything but that of Mr. Nice Guy, yet he maintains that de Jong doesn’t intend to injure people. Two opponents left with broken legs, Brad? Xabi Alonso karate-kicked in the chest, Brad? Intention is irrelevant here, the fact is that de Jong has a ominous track record as a dirty player.

Should MLS referees judge de Jong more harshly than other players? Whatever the rights and wrongs of that course of action, it’s one that referees invariably reject. They will treat all players equally, base their decisions only on what they see.

I agree with that philosophy -- but only if the “communication” aspect is not applied. No chatting. Call the foul and give the card. Something for Peter Walton, the MLS referee boss, to think about for the coming MLS season.

And it is de Jong himself who has raised the alarm by committing this totally gratuitous thoroughly unprofessional and highly dangerous foul just as the MLS season is about to begin.

20 comments about "De Jong? Disgraceful".
  1. T. Michael Flinn, March 2, 2016 at 3:40 p.m.

    Paul you are so right. I cringed when I learned of this acquisition. Although I live in Georgia I was a fan of the galaxy because of Coby Jones, Arena and Donovan, then Beckham and Robby Keane. After last night I may give up my fandom. Of course when Atlanta United comes online, LA will be a distant memory.

  2. Peter Mullany, March 2, 2016 at 3:56 p.m.

    Agreed. Refs adjust..? Communicate? Let the cards do the talking. Why is this guy an MLS acquisition...

  3. A. Torres, March 2, 2016 at 4:42 p.m.

    I agree that De Jong is a rough and probably a dirty player if the tackles he dishes out are done with malicious intent... and I know he has a history. However I disagree with the comment “What was de Jong doing, making a tackle of that sort in the final minutes of a game that his team had clearly lost? A player has to always play his game with the intensity that he naturally plays with… so if you are losing the game with 2 minutes left you should relax and give up. No way, you have to always give you 100% at the time even when you are losing. De Jong is who he is and I’m certain Bruce Arena knew who he was getting.

  4. Kent James replied, March 2, 2016 at 8 p.m.

    There is a lot of space between 'relaxing and giving up' and what De Jong did. I agree that players should play with intensity throughout the match, regardless of the score, but De Jong's tackle was dirty, not intense.

  5. Ric Fonseca, March 2, 2016 at 5:57 p.m.

    Once again I find myself agreeing with PG. Regarding the game officials "talking" with the players, well, PG, only if you have officiated before, were taught by some of the best, would you or a real game official will invariably speak to the players, s'matter fact, I remember being instructed in my early years as a ref, in the middle or as AR, I was reminded to "chat it up" with the players, this way you can judge a player's understanding of the game, or give him a little "warning" even if you discuss the heat, the rain, or just want to let them know you're there and are watching them. NO, PG it doesn't mean that you ought to say, careful now, or explain Law XI, or the wonders of Law V. De Johng, on the other hand, is though a plain thug, and as for why did the Carson Galaxy's GM/HC sign him, I read in yesterday's LA Times, that defender De la Garza issued a subtle warning to other MLS teams, that their defense is not going to be taking lying down, like they did last year, and while saying so, I believe he mentioned or alluded to a new "tougher line of defense..." And yes, Senhor Arena for sure knew who he was getting.... Hmmmm, I wonder of the other Brits, Keane and Setve had anything to do with Bruce bringing over some muscle?

  6. James Demastus, March 2, 2016 at 6:08 p.m.

    Paul, you've had a personal vendetta against DeJong. It's already old.

  7. Wooden Ships replied, March 2, 2016 at 9:11 p.m.

    James, I don't think its personal about Nigel, its more what he represents. So, you approve?

  8. Kevin Sims, March 2, 2016 at 6:44 p.m.

    Shame on Nigel. Shame on LA Galaxy. Shame on Friedel, who must own his stature with US Soccer. The man is a thug. He does nothing to contribute to MLS or the beautiful game. He just might make a good candidate for President, however.

  9. James Madison, March 2, 2016 at 7:03 p.m.

    DeJong's foul merited straight red, whether it was in the 87th minute with the score 3-0 or the in 8th minute with the score 0-0. Referees don't "chat" with players. However, they may sometimes chew ass, on the one hand; at other times they will take care of foul play, so that the victim player (or his team mates) need not take the law into his or their own hands and at still other times acknowledge particularly sporting play.

  10. John Soares, March 2, 2016 at 7:07 p.m.

    Ric...I totally agree with you, talking to players. It has always worked well for me. IF it is with young players or even adult "amateurs". With Professionals unless it is a simple "One more and you are on the bench". I don't think these long conversations are meaningful, carry any weight and depending on the follow through (that often doesn't happen) only makes other players lose respect for the ref. At this level cards speak louder than words....especially the red ones:). MR. Torres; You too are correct in the "always give a 100%" But with a "DeJong" was that in fact giving a 100% or getting his licks in on a losing cause!? I can't read his mind, but fear/believe it is the latter.

  11. Kent James, March 2, 2016 at 7:57 p.m.

    PG, you got this one right; not just what should have been a red card, but your predictions about De Yong (I'm only surprised at the speed with which your prediction was shown to be true). If I had to guess as to De Yong's motivation was it was to 'send a message' (you beat us at your peril). Some people see this as a sort of competitiveness; the unwillingness to accept a loss (aka, win at all costs). I think this is the sort of 'bite' that Klinsmann wants. I think it's horrendous. The referee should have sent a message of his own; it's called a red card, and it indicates that such behavior is unacceptable.

  12. Stevie G, March 2, 2016 at 8:01 p.m.

    Perhaps Arena gave young Nigel explicit instructions to make a statement of intention?

  13. David V, March 2, 2016 at 8:14 p.m.

  14. David V, March 2, 2016 at 8:18 p.m.

    I will repeat my comments in response to PG’s article on 4 Feb (

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE, EXCELLENT... thug is an accurate description. By the way, not only did this character and the Dutch squad rob the world of an incredible world cup game (remember Van Marwijk asked Cruyff if his team could beat Spain the way Inter beat Barca that year in the Champions League, and Cruyff said that no matter what, Holland could not win, and from that moment on, the Dutch scripted a dirty play strategy against the great team in history), but so did the referee. This was a game the Spanish would have won 4,5,6 to 0 if the Dutch had played fairly (you'll recall, besides DeJong, 2 other Dutch players should have been red carded within the first half... my memory is a little fuzzy, but I think actually within the first 30 minutes there were 3 clear red cards Clockwork Orange should have received). Clearly the referee in that game, HOWARD WEBB, was horrible (he finally gave a red after a 2nd yellow in the 2nd overtime)... what a horrible referee. And you know what? All the English commentators/media and the English football associations all said that Webb (an Englishman) had done a wonderful job, just a great job. Amazing!!! It's horrible refereeing that contributes to these DeJong type thugs on the field. (By the way, US, wake up and quick following the English "interpretation" of the rules when games are being reffed... we, meaning the US, don't seem to know that you must be playing the ball to level a player - it's standard practice to level the player and then play the ball... here in the USA, and we got that way watching too much English Football. Let's not be enablers of this butchery, whether it is Area, or this repulsive brand of playing and refereeing football.

    would De Jong have changed if he had received a 4 month ban from the game? I think... 4 months might be good

    And maybe something else... in addition to the 4month ban, perhaps the player is not allowed to play against the same opponent in their next 2 head-to-head games (in similar level play... not friendlies... so for example DeJong wouldn't be able to play against Spain in their next 2 competitive matches... and the butcher, filipe luis (of Atletico de Madrid) would get the same for his horrific play against Messi that happened a few weeks back...

  15. beautiful game, March 2, 2016 at 8:42 p.m.

    It's not so much de jong's brutality; it's the referee's delinquency not to red card such players. Refs who condone such brutality need to be sanctioned.

  16. Wooden Ships, March 2, 2016 at 9:24 p.m.

    This isn't breaking (pun intended) news. This unfortunately does reflect the real Bruce Arena, overrated never was been. MLS has been hard to watch largely due to out of control play and technical deficiencies. Garber needs to give referees permission to elevate the technical standard's of the league. And, Brad Friedel, while I appreciate your accomplishments, I think maybe listening to your comments should give many pause as to your fitness as a USMNT coach.

  17. cony konstin, March 3, 2016 at 1:57 a.m.

    U.S. Soccer needs radical change... We need new leadership. We need a new vision. We need a 21st century master plan. We need a soccer revolution in the U.S.. Players like this guy is a waste of money. I want to US players playing in the MLS not jokers like this hack.

  18. David V, March 3, 2016 at 11:05 a.m.

    Criminals need to be punished, and so does a bad cop who watches crimes being committed and has a talking to the criminal... I w Nowozeniuk, you make a very good point... we DO want to punish the criminal (DeJong and the thugs who play this way), but we also EXPECT the law to be enforced (REFs)...

  19. Carl Walther, March 3, 2016 at 12:13 p.m.

    DeJong: Born a thug, raised as a thug, will die as a thug.
    His being hired by L.A. says everything that needs to be said about the lack of morals and ethics of the Galaxy's management. I won't go to, or watch any more Galaxy games. I'll wait for the new L.A. club to support.

  20. Jim Ngo, March 5, 2016 at 10:49 a.m.

    Paul, Bruce Arena isn't naive. He knows exactly what he signed. This is precisely the play he wants in midfield defense because many teams are shifting to a midfield-triangle 4-3-3. He wants to disrupt the #10s and get into their heads, making them not want to hold the ball long enough to develop forward play.

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