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Horrific de Jong tackle forces Nagbe out of Galaxy-Timbers draw

Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports
Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today Sports

The biggest talking point in the aftermath of the LA Galaxy-Portland Timbers game was not the result, but rather a horrendous tackle that left one of MLS’s most talented attacking talents in a wheelchair and a familiar suspect facing the heat.

The Galaxy and Timbers played to a 1-1 draw at StubHub Center in Carson, California, on Sunday night, but the match was overshadowed by the ugly incident that occurred in the 73rd minute. Galaxy midfielder Nigel de Jong went in studs-up on a tackle on Darlington Nagbe, and the Timbers winger immediately crumpled to the ground in pain before being forced out of the game.

Replays showed that de Jong forcefully made contact with Nagbe’s left ankle on the play, and the U.S. Men’s National Team player was unable to put pressure on it afterwards. Nagbe watched the end of the Western Conference showdown on the bench with a towel over his head before being taken to the locker room in a wheel chair.

There was clear discomfort in his face, and plenty of frustration and anger from the Timbers over the play that resulted in only a yellow card for de Jong.

“I understand that there’s a message that referees want to send. Well, we better start sending it then because they didn’t send it today with some of the tackles that were in that game,” said Timbers head coach Caleb Porter. “When are we sending it? Just some games? That’s the big thing. It’s like, if we’re going to have an initiative to send a message on tough tackles, well then let’s do it. Let’s do it every game. Not some games.”

A player with a long-standing reputation for injury-inducing tackles, the 31-year-old de Jong went over to Nagbe after the final whistle to apologize. He told the 25-year-old speedster that he did not mean to injure him, and repeated that afterwards when talking to reporters.

“A ball came my way. It was a 50-50 ball. I went over the ball a little bit and caught mostly his ankle,” said de Jong. “It was not my intention to hurt the kid. He’s a good kid, and I said so after the game.”

The severity of Nagbe’s injury was not known in the immediate aftermath of the game, but there was a huge uproar from plenty of observers who deemed de Jong’s tackle malicious and unacceptable.

Fox Sports commentator Stuart Holden was especially critical of de Jong’s tackle on Nagbe. He can relate to Nagbe’s pain more than most, having suffered a broken leg at the hands of a de Jong tackle six years ago.

“I’m sitting here and now I’m seeing this challenge firsthand on Darlington Nagbe, and it makes me feel sick because I know what Darlington Nagbe is going through,” said Holden on the postgame broadcast. “We saw him sitting there, he had the towel over his head, we saw his body mannerism, and that’s a man that knows he’s done something serious. I don’t want to speculate what it is, but I know it’s not good.

“De Jong did go over and apologize, but there is absolutely no excuse for that type of challenge. We don’t need it in the game. It’s horrific, it’s horrible, and he’s going to get retroactive punishment.”

The Timbers also took to their official Twitter account to publicly voice their displeasure. They sent a tweet directly at the LA Galaxy shortly after the game, and the two clubs had a brief back-and-forth that further infuriated fans.

MLS has a Disciplinary Committee that reviews plays and hands out retroactive punishments when it deems appropriate. Many are expecting de Jong to get a lengthy suspension for his tackle on Nagbe.

“Any time you see someone get hit studs-up, you’re not happy about it,” said LA Galaxy forward Mike Magee. “It’s my teammate, so I’d love to defend him, but the game can do without those kind of tackles.”


  1. Laughable. Something this minor, should have received nothing more than a conversation. Not suspension and certainly not a story in the press. Not surprised though. PV is a douch. Saw him last week in NYC walking by. I said “Hey Patrick. I was …” he looked me in the rye and then darted past me. Douche in my book.

  2. Rumor has it that Magee was furious after the Fox post game interview. Felt he was ambushed, that he was told they’d talk about the game and instead all the Fox guys talked about was the DeJong/Nagbe tackle and they kept asking him to chime in and Magee was all “are we going to talk about the game or not?” And Magee refused to talk to the print media or anyone else after. Well done, Fox Sports!

    • That would never work in the real world. People have different recovery times, you injure a fast healer you get 5 games, a slow healer 10 games, if the guy tries to get back to training too early and re-injures is your suspension lifted or do you still sit until he comes back. If your team is playing a bad opponent, but the team with the suspended player is playing a top team do you sit the injured player one more week in hopes of gaining an advantage in the table. There are too many variables to make that work.

  3. A lot of comments here are from people who didn’t see the game. I saw it in real time and in replay and I am quite contrarian here. Here’s how the play unfolded. Nagbe was running/dribbling forward on an attack about 15 yards past the midline on the Galaxy side of the field. There was a defender waiting for him straight on. He cut left and almost literally ran into de Jong. He tried to move around de Jong and de Jong stuck his foot in to try to get the ball. De Jong never left his feet and I don’ t know why they are saying studs up. He stuck his foot in to get the ball, but because Nagbe tried to go around him at the same time de Jong missed and landed about where Nagbe’s Achilles is. De jong did not lunge or do anything except try to stop the attacker and missed. I think most of this uproar is because Alexi Lalas went ballistic. The play by play announcer, I think it was John Strong, seemed rather nonplussed by Lalas’ reaction, as was I. Earlier in the game there was a play where Zardes was running down the sideline and Borchers slid into him with both feet and took out Zardes and carried him about two yards over the sideline with the force of his tackle. Because Borchers got the ball, no foul was called, only a throw in for the Galaxy. Borchers showed much more vicious intent in that one play than de Jong did the whole game. I have seen most of every game the Galaxy have played this year and the fact is, that despite his reputation, de Jong has not played dirty and has been quite effective,. And I was no de Jong fan and thought he was a terrible signing.

    • He was in the process of getting beat and stepped down at where the ball was and got all leg and then put his weight into it. Rumor has it Nagbe’s ankle is broken vs torn ligaments. Intentional or not, de Jong has broken a whole lot of ankles in his career which happens because your technique as a defender is terrible. Stomping at the ball is terrible technique and deserves a red card and suspension when you injure someone with it.

      • Exactly right. Forcefully planting one’s boot across the ball holders path, while completely missing the ball, is — at best — wreckless. If De Jong didn’t have a track record of such tackles, I might think it’s the technique of an out-of-shape, old, and/or unskilled Sunday player.

        However, he is not exactly new to the game. He’s a pro that should know better, and the fact that he continues to do it indicates malicious intent or sociopathic disregard for others. Either way, he needs to be taught a lesson.

    • See photo above. You were fooled by the midfield camera angle where Cole, Nagbe and De Jong were in a line. De Jong clearly stepped down over the ball onto Nagbe’s ankle while leaning back. Nagbe didn’t run into De Jong.

      • The photo certainly does give a different impression. But when you saw the whole sequence in real time, a bang–bang play, it didn’t look at all the same way and I would like to see the whole play from that angle, not just one frame.

    • Sorry Gary your wrong on this one. I don’t think it needs a long suspension, but it should have been a red card. Stomping down on the ball makes no soccer sense its a purposeful move to foul. He could have just as easily grabbed the shirt or kicked his shin and committed the “professional foul” but he didn’t. You can’t assume he was trying to injury, but he was certainly trying to be more physical than was necessary.

    • And Borchers is a hack who often makes up for his athletic ability by playing “physical”. Soccer karma bit him in the end though. Does Lletget get an assist for the own goal?

    • Sorry Gary, I was watching live as well and I immediately thought red card as soon as I saw it. I don’t know if it was intentional or not, but intent doesn’t matter. This is the definition of a studs up tackle. If you go into a tackle like that you have to know that you’re risking a red card, because these are the kinds of tackles that break bones. I mean, what was he trying to do here, step on the ball?

  4. I do not think the tackle was as bad as journalists and some Portland fans make it out to be. DeJong never left his feet, never tackled from behind or tackled studs up. It was a clumsy tackle on a 50-50 ball and a yellow card at worst. In fact he never stepped on the ankle, it was the lower leg. The fact that he was walking is a good sign, but later tests may show less obvious injuries.

    I looked at it from several angles and slo-mo and unless the DicCo sees more things than are there, even a 1 game suspension is not required.

    Anybody who has ever laced up and played the game, knows this is what happens. clueless reporting make sensationalism that grabs attention.

    But because of his past reputation, I expect De Jong will receive further punishment.

    i do hope Nagbe is not seriously injured. Eyewitness reports from the Airport have Nagbe walking (not limping) unaided or unassisted to the plane. He had not “boot” and was wearing street shoes. And although a Portland reporter received “news” that Nagbe was seriously injured, wore a boot at the airport, this is contradicted elsewhere.

    It should be a light/no punishment situation, but because of sensationalism, I expect De Jong may be martyred.

    • a studs in the leg tackle is a straight red by the books. Regardless of if the other player gets hurt or continues to play on.

      Your argument is extremely flawed.

    • Frame right before the photo at the top of the article here:

      This is an over the ball ankle stomp. The angle shown on TV in real time was terrible. If the ref had such a terrible angle I understand the yellow instead of red, but at the same time at least one of his 2 ARs should have had a better one.

      This is an obvious red card and suspension, particularly for a player who has made a career out of clumsy tackles and broken several legs with it.

    • As a neutral party, I can tell you, you are on crack. The definition of a horrible awful tackle does not require you to leave your feet. That is one of the worst tackles I have seen in this league and I have been a fan since rooting for tab and the metros…

      DeJong should be suspended for as long as Nagbe is injured.

      • I am also a neutral party here. The tackle was borderline red. Perhaps a one game suspension at best. It is significant to note that the ref only gave him a yellow because it sortof looked like he was going for the ball- perhaps even grazing it. De Jong knows what he’s doing but he plays in that grey area where it can be interpreted as fair or unintentional. There is an art to that, and if you can deploy that to help his team win, then that’s the game and the ref should do better. Honestly, I have made plays like this where I go in studs up through the ball (50/50) getting the ball and then the players planted ankle and the ref didn’t even call a foul even though I knew what I was doing. Basically protecting myself so that if I make contact with the other guy sliding or going in hard, he feels the force of my leg through the bottom of my foot rather than the side. It can be nasty, but it is also a way to protect yourself. Although, this was not what De Jong did, as he went to far over the ball. Hence the yellow and probably deserving of a red. Big suspension? No.

  5. The twisted aspect is many of us sarcastically wondered if the MLS signing of de Jong would result in more injuries of USMNT players.

    It’s sad that Arena/MLS wanted to sign a crop of players like de Jong, Cole and van Damme. Two have played like absolute thugs and one openly admitted to considering MLS a vacation spot.

    • …and I forgot to even mention the Gerrard signing. Tuned in to the match only to find (surprise surprise) he wasn’t playing and was instead having a beer with Klinsmann and Keane.

      Arena is the best manager that has ever walked the sidelines in MLS, but this off-season he looked like a old man suffering from Alzheimer’s and desperate to secure another MLS Cup as if this may be his last season or two.

  6. Felt really bad for Mike Magee, he had to sit on set while Stu Holden talks and they show a still shot of DeJong breaking Stu’s leg and then “So Mike, can you explain this tackle?”

    Apparently Stu and Nigel talked before the game and Stu said he felt good and kind changed the way he thought of him and then 2 hours later, crack.

  7. Before we go overreacting to this let’s remember that these over the hill former European stars are critical to the league’s growth. This kind of plays travel around the world in a matter of hours. You just can’t buy that kind of publicity. Of course we’ll lose some players but as long as they’re not too famous than that’s a risk we are willing to take.

  8. when your nickname is “der Rasenmäher” – the lawnmower – that is all you need to know. You are simply a hack. There is no place for those challenges in the game. I would love to believe there was no intended malice but de Jong’s reputation males you think otherwise. A hefty suspension is warranted.

  9. How about a 30 game suspension? At this point, he is only hired for one purpose. This “man” has played exactly the same way the last 10 years of his career. “You’re beating me left and right? Give my regards to your orthopedic surgeon.”

  10. De Jong is trash that can come to terms with his own actions, it’s sad really, image what he had to convince himself of

  11. Everyone knew this was coming when LA signed him. EVERYONE KNEW IT WAS COMING. But LA brought him into this league anyway. Well done, LA.

    And then they joke about it, above? I would have thought they’d have more class than that; that was dumb of me, I guess.

    • I didn’t see the match, but watching this clip it actually looks unintentional, as if Nagbe was quick enough to touch the ball around the tackle and De Jong was too slow to adjust. But then why the studs up? That part is hard to defend.

      • After watching the video, I agree it seems to be a missed timed tackle and De Jong was making at least some effort on the ball. Still, only reason I can see to go in studs up in that situation is because you are more determined to put a hurting on the player than to win the ball.

    • Please see the comments below from me and bottlecaps who actually watched the game live. We posted almost simultaneously and had reached the same conclusion.

  12. In reading about this I keep seeing suggestions along the lines of “MLS should send a message by suspending him for 2-3 games.” 3 games? Really?? How about 10 or 15? If MLS wants to send a message that’s what they need to do. That tackle was designed to injure — whether intentional or simply reckless. It is quite simply unacceptable. You give him 3 games for that he’s making it again in the 4th game.

    • If you notice I suggested a minimum of 3 games “or until Nagbe returns to the field”. If Nagbe has a broken ankle than De Jong would likely be suspended for the remainder of the season.
      Is that enough of a message?

      • 10 games or the length of time Nagbe is out. Whichever is longer.

        Shame that the ref didn’t understand the seriousness of the challenge. Portland was up 1-0 at that point and really could have used the man advantage to defend that lead. Instead they let de Jong’s hack and the missed call give advantage to LA.

        The Timbers have had a rash of this already. Three games ago the DC suspended RSL’s Martinez for a studs up tackle from behind on Nagbe which only drew yellow in the game (was in stoppage so even a red wouldn’t have helped the TImbers for long in that one). Last week Brek Shea should have been sent off at 14:07 when he injured Asprilla with a terrible tackle from behind (before his goal). Playing 75 or so minutes a man down may have very well made a huge difference in the outcome of that game.

        Very unfortunate that these kinds of tackles are not routinely being appropriately punished by the referees on the field, and then if necessary extended by the DC. The referees are giving teams extra advantage allowing hacks like de Jong to injure players with terrible tackles and then keep playing and then a suspension really only gives slight advantage to the next opponent, not the one which should be given the big advantage of a man advantage. Just terrible. PRO and MLS need to do a much better job.

  13. Didn’t see video of the tackle. It’s probably too hard to tell, but from the picture it looks like Nigel’s eyes, like his studs, are focused right down on Nagbe’s ankle.

  14. Terrible. I’m sure this isn’t the last time SBI will need to write the headline Horrific de Jong tackle forces ______ out of Galaxy-______ ______

  15. And as a surprise to no one, Nigel De Jong continues his career-ending tackles in MLS.

    Can’t wait to see Stu Holden’s reaction to this madness.

  16. I can understand a ref not wanting to send a player off, but this was a nasty…nasty tackle. It reminded me a lot of the tackle that started Stu on the road to retirement. I hope that Nagbe’s injury isn’t as bad as it appears to be, and that he makes a full and quick recovery.

    As for De Jong, if MLS is sincere about wanting to crack down on dangerous & malicious fouls they need to send a real message by suspending De Jong for a minimum of 3 games or as long as Nagbe is sidelined due to the injury he caused.

  17. Hypothetical decision making process by the Galaxy in the offseason. We are now in a league that has teams sand players that can match our counter attack. Timbers exposed us badly last year. We need a D-Mid who can stop counters and take balls off of fast talented players. DeJong he is our man and our muscle.
    Galaxy gameplan slow the Timbers counter down. Especially since everything goes through Nagbe and Valeri with link up play with Adi. DeJong you need to take Nagbe and Valeri off the ball especially in the attacking third.
    DeJong oh sh*t number 6 just cut back and is going to blow by me? Place my foot firmly on his foott and ankle. Job done!


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