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Michael Lewis

Michael Lewis

December 21, 2011
Dempsey's elbows become lethal weapons as he knocks another out of a game

Clint Dempsey has had probems controlling his elbows.
Clint Dempsey has had probems controlling his elbows.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Michael Lewis Editor

Like it or not, Clint Dempsey has a history — a bad history — of getting his elbow in the way of opponents’ jaws.

Whether it was accidental or on purpose, the jaw of Manchester United’s Phil Jones met Dempsey’s elbow early in the Red Devils’ 5-0 demolition of Fulham at Craven Cottage in London on Wednesday night.

Jones needed on-field treatment after the incident. He played until the 20th minute before he was replaced by Ashley Young.

There were some early reports that Jones might be sidelined for as much as six weeks, but Jones will have an X-ray on Thursday to determine how much damage his jaw sustained.

“We’ll send him for an X-ray tomorrow,” United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told reporters after the game. “He had an elbow to his jaw. It was an elbow by Dempsey but I don’t think it was deliberate.”

Dempsey’s elbows have become one of the U.S.’s most dangerous weapons on foreign soil.

Here are some examples:

* While playing for the New England Revolution on Aug. 9, 2006, Dempsey broke the jaw of Kansas City Wizards central defender Jimmy Conrad as both players went up for the ball. Conrad missed seven games and dropped 12 pounds. Dempsey was suspended for two games and fined $1,000 by Major League Soccer.

* While playing for Fulham in the English Premier League, Dempsey fractured the jaw of Chelsea and England international midfielder John Terry while both players jumped for the ball in a scoreless tie in London on Sept. 29, 2007. Dempsey was not sanctioned, although there were calls for an English Football Association inquiry.

* And while wearing the red, white and blue of the U.S. National Team against Slovenia in a group stage game at last year’s World Cup, Dempsey elbowed Zlatan Ljubijankic in the head just after kickoff. Ljubijankic went on to score a goal for Slovenia in what turned into a controversial 2-2 draw.

If it happens once, you have to believe it is a coincidence.

But when it happens twice, three times and four times, it goes beyond that. Now, that’s not saying Dempsey is doing it on purpose. But he is injuring opponents again and again with elbows.

Sooner or later he could really, really injure someone.

The question is whether Dempsey will be able to tone it down and police himself and not let it affect his game.

He is arguably the best American player these days. He doesn’t need elbows to excel. He has shown time and again for Fulham — he recently became the all-time leading goal-scorer in the EPL — that he is lethal scoring goals whether it comes from his head in terms of vision or a head shot or from his feet.

Here’s hoping we don’t hear of another foe’s injury sustained by the elbows of one Clint Dempsey.

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