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    January 8, 2020 7:51 PM CST

    TORONTO -- The MLS schedule is just three weeks old and already the shots are coming fast and furious. Too many on Clint Dempsey, says U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann. But the league decided that Dempsey was the trouble-maker not the victim when it suspended the Seattle Sounders star striker two games Friday for "violent conduct" against Toronto FC defender Mark Bloom. The incident happened off the ball in the 40th minute of Torontos 2-1 win in Seattle last Saturday. Dempsey swung an arm and caught Bloom in the groin. The U.S. international was also fined an undisclosed amount. Klinsmann stepped in after the game, saying MLS has to offer key players like Dempsey more protection. "Obviously we are a little bit worried about Clint Dempsey getting fouled I dont know how many times in this game against Toronto," he said in a U.S. Soccer video. Toronto committed 25 fouls compared to 15 for Seattle. "Im hoping MLS is having an eye on that ... What I saw there on the weekend there were certain things not within the rules any more," Klinsmann added. "So I hope that our players in a certain way get a little bit of protection because they need to be healthy going into this World Cup." Seattle was also the victim of 25 fouls in its season-opening win over Sporting Kansas City. Asked about the Klinsmann comments on protecting stars, Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen stuck his tongue firmly in his cheek. "I 100 per cent agree with him," he said. "Jermain Defoe, Michael Bradley and Gilberto should be left alone, they shouldnt be allowed to tackle them." "I think theres a hidden agenda with Juergens comments," he added. Bradley, a veteran U.S. international whose father Bob Bradley used to coach the American national team, also downplayed the issue. "Its a physical league for sure but when you look around the world, all the best games are physical," he said. "Theyre hard, Teams compete at the highest level. For us, when we look back at last weekend, we feel like we played hard, we competed hard, we left everything we had on the field but in an honest, fair way. "And so I think, after the fact, for people to look and to start to talk about a play here, a play there, lets be honest, theres little plays like this that go in every game. And still when you look back at 90 minutes, I think the way that we were able to get after Seattle and make the game hard on them and really win the physical battles was something we want to take forward into this game (Saturday against D.C, United) as well." Seattle coach Sigi Schmid didnt offer much on the suspension in an interview posted on the club website. "It is what it is so we have to deal with it," he said. Dempsey is eligible to return for an April 5 road game in Portland. The MLS disciplinary committee also suspended Chicago Fire defender Lovel Palmer for two games and fined him an undisclosed amount for violent conduct toward Portland Timbers forward Maximiliano Urruti last weekend. Both Dempsey and Palmer submitted appeals that were turned down. Montreal Impact midfielder Justin Mapp was also fined an undisclosed amount for simulation in a game against the Houston Dynamo. New York Red Bulls defender Armando was banned one game and fined an undisclosed amount for serious foul play against Colorado Rapids forward Deshorn Brown. Prior to the start of the season, the leagues board of governors approved a policy stating that any player receiving a red card for violent conduct or adjudged unanimously by the discipline committee to be an unequivocal red card for violent conduct will be automatically suspended for at least two games and be fined. L.J. 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And, just for good measure, lets say the lottery team finishes the game short-handed because two starters come down with the very same injury.TORONTO -- This isnt a situation the Toronto Maple Leafs wanted to find themselves in. Two centres are out indefinitely: Tyler Bozak with a hamstring injury and Dave Bolland after undergoing surgery to repair a severed tendon in his ankle. That has meant making adjustments, most notably regular left-winger James van Riemsdyks move to centre, and increased pressure on Nazem Kadri and Jay McClement. "Obviously theres going to be more responsibility," Kadri said. "Thats pretty much the reason why Reemer (van Riemsdyk) is moving to the middle is because were kind of running out in that position. But I think everyones pretty prepared and the coaching staffs done a good job preparing us." Having plenty of time to prepare is the biggest positive right now for the Leafs. With six days between the end of their Western Conference road trip and Fridays game against the New Jersey Devils, coach Randy Carlyle has ample opportunity to help his players adjust to the new reality caused by injuries. "We believe that repetition is going to re-enforce some of the staples which we believe we have to play to and how we have to play," Carlyle said Wednesday. "We look at our team to play a tighter brand of hockey and to continue to show some growth. We think our growth has stalled with our team, and we dont think that weve played to the template that weve created and some of the things that were struggling with are things that we have to overcome." Picking up the level of play is something Carlyle has stressed for a while, even when the Leafs (10-5-0, 20 points) were in first place in the Atlantic Division. But its something else to have to overcome losing two centres this early in the season. Bozak has been out since injuring his hamstring Oct. 25 at the Columbus Blue Jackets. Losing him put more onus on Kadri, but then Bolland suffering a severed tendon Saturday against the Vancouver Canucks put Toronto in quite the quagmire. Naturally, buzz about the Leafs making calls around the NHL about forwards picked up. "We are going to look at and explore all of the options that are available to us, but theres nobody in the league looking to give you a handout, I guarantee you," Carlyle said. The option the Leafs went for was signing veteran centre Jerred Smithson to a one-year contract. Smithson, 34, spent last season with the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers and was on a tryout with their AHL affiliate, the Toronto Marlies. Smithson is expected to fill in on the fourth line, while van Riemsdyk is being counted on to centre the first line. Van Riemsdyk has played centre before, though that was during his two seasons at the University of New Hampshire from 2007 to 2009. Van Riemsdyk saidd Monday moving to the middle doesnt change his approach too much, but it is an adjustment.dddddddddddd "When youre used to playing a certain position, you kind of just naturally know where to go and maybe you have to think about it a little bit more," he said. "Its a lot about timing, centre, just being in the right spot at the right time so youre not losing your speed and all that stuff. I think its a timing thing and you get that through repetition and some experience there." And repetition is what hes getting. On Monday van Riemsdyk didnt sound quite sure whether hed actually be making the move to centre or was just practising there, but Wednesday he was back between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel. It was one of many chances the 24-year-old will have to get used to centre before games against the Devils and Boston Bruins. "Obviously you want a guy to get some practice time in," Carlyle said. "We try to work on things that hes going to be faced with in the game against Jersey. Down low is one of the coverages its going to have to be something thats ingrained in his mind here over the next three or four days. Theres no time like practice." Wednesdays practice was over an hour long. Even if thats not the norm the rest of the week, van Riemsdyk will get some help from teammates off the ice about his adjustment. "All the centremen all the time we get together and kind of review what has to happen, whether its in the D-zone or neutral zone or whatever it may be," Kadri said. "Also faceoffs is another big thing with that. Usually the centremans responsible for calling out the plays off the draw. Really its just being prepared and getting prepared to execute a game plan." Van Riemsdyk said he feels "OK" about his faceoff game, but after taking just 10 draws so far this season itll become a bigger area of concern. To take some pressure off van Riemsdyk, Carlyle could lean even more heavily on McClement and Kadri in the faceoff circle. This kind of hole requires more than just one player to step up, and Carlyle is asking his players to consider the situation from a team aspect. "Were all going to help each other out," Kadri said. "We got four other guys, five other guys to help us out. Really weve just got to stick together as a team and fight through some adversity." Notes -- In conjunction with singing Smithson, the Leafs assigned centre Trevor Smith to the Marlies. ... Defenceman Mark Fraser (knee) took part in a full practice Wednesday and is expected to be available to the Leafs for Fridays game against New Jersey. Its uncertain if Fraser will play, as Carlyle said decisions must be made with eight options on the blue-line. Wholesale Jerseys ' ' '