By now, we’ve all seen Nigel de Jong giving Darlington Nagbe the old Dutch Crutch.
It’s a nasty challenge. But nasty challenges are part of the game. These are professional athletes going at 100%. When an unstoppable force meets an immovable object, there’s gonna be some collateral damage.
This time, it was Darlington Nagbe’s ankle.
Before I go further, let me say that I love Darlington Nagbe’s game. I’m happy to see him getting some shine with the United States men’s national team and I hate to see him get hurt. He’s got a bright future and I can’t wait to watch him play in the Copa America.
That being said, a ship in harbor is safe, but this is not what a ship is built for.
Nagbe’s pension to get forward – at pace – is going to lead him into collisions with defenders who are determined to impede his progress by any means necessary.
Sure, in slo-mo, De Jong’s tackle looks egregious. But when you’re flyin’ around out there, you don’t have the luxury of retrospective slo-mo and multiple camera angles.
It’s a split second decision. De Jong didn’t consciously choose to maim Nagbe, his lizard brain did.
De Jong’s ability to marshall a midfield and his take-no-prisoners attitude are what differentiate his game from the all the would-be De Jong’s out there. That’s why he’s had a nearly 20-year career in Europe and played in 2 World Cups with the Dutch national team.
The Oranje isn’t a side you can just walk in to, either. The Netherlands is one of the most heralded footballing nations on Earth. They’re the ones who gave us Johann Cruyff, after all. De Jong has been an integral part of a team replete with bonafide international stars.
De Jong honed his craft at some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
He spent four years with Ajax, four years with Hamburg, five years with Man City, and four years with Milan before signing with the LA Galaxy in 2016.
Along the way, he collected a Premier League title, an FA cup, and 2nd and 3rd place finishes in the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
Stuart Holden might disagree, but De Jong’s wild challenges are more exception than the rule.
I’m not cosigning this tackle. It’s ugly and Stuart Holden never recovered. But sometimes NASCAR drivers crash, and usually it’s when they’re going fast.
Here, Xabi Alonso’s chest was taking up the space where De Jong’s foot wanted to be.
He’s not a bicycle cop handing out jay-walking tickets and helping kids who dropped their ice cream cones. He’s on the SWAT team kicking in doors. Move too quick and you might get shot.
These gruesome tackles are an occupational hazard for someone who plays as hard as Nigel De Jong. They’re brutal, they’re sinister, but they’re not malicious.
Cut the guy some slack.