Major League Soccer did the right thing — suspending Colorado’s Brian Mullan on Thursday for 10 matches after he broke Steve Zakuani’s leg in the match against the Rapids last week.
To complicate things further, the Seattle Sounders lost another starting player to injury — this time forward O’Brian White, who underwent surgery Wednesday to remove a blood clot in his left leg. The Sounders said White, 25, will be out indefinitely.
Obviously its good for OBrian that they were able to identify it now before that can obviously develop into a serious life-threatening type of issue,” Coach Sigi Schmid said. “Its been a strange one for our team. You lose another player who has been very important. We are basically losing our top two scorers so far as we are into the season but we have to move on. Weve got players who are professional players who are ready to play and take their spot.
The Sounders should pair Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales together up front. They are currently the two best remaining forwards and look like they are forging a good understanding in the matches they have played together. With White out of the picture for the moment, the two South Americans are the team’s most dangerous attacking players.
Other options are available. Mike Fucito, the fleet-footed human dynamo, is injury-free and desparate to see his first minutes. David Estrada and Miguel Montano are also options up top — but neither inspire the kind of confidence that Montero and Rosales do.
Simply put, the Sounders cannot afford to take a lot of risks. They need their forwards to deliver and score goals. Montero and Rosales offer the best hope.
The Zakuani and White injuries also change the complexion of the midfield. The starting quartet should be: Erik Friberg on the right or in the middle; Brad Evans in the middle or on the right; Alvaro Fernandez on the left; and Osvaldo Alonso playing the holding role. That seems fairly simple, if all are injury free. They are the team’s four best remaining midfielders.
Of course, none of this would have been an issue if Mullan had not decided to snap Zakuani’s fibula and tibia.
The MLS punished the perpetrators of the ugly game — sending a strong signal to the destroyers of creative, artful soccer that vicious, retaliatory tackling aimed at injuring players will not be tolerated.
The 10-game suspension and $5,000 fine it handed out to Mullan for scything Zakuani out of commission is probably appropriate punishment.
Will it bring back one of the league’s most dynamic and entertaining players? No. As Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer have remarked since the horrific injury: no amount of punishment will bring back Zakuani.
“As a league, the Commissioner has stated his intention to be more protective of dynamic, attacking players. Hopefully this suspension is a step in the right direction,” Hanauer said.
“However, the harsh reality of this situation is that no length of suspension will bring back Steve to action any faster.”
Said Schmid: “I know nobody feels worse than Brian Mullan about this incident because I know Brian as a person. It was an unfortunate situation in that regard but I think the suspension is probably appropriate based upon what the league stated as their commitment at the beginning of the season.
The league was less tolerant in its view of the incident and in its statement. The league agrees there is no room for brutish thuggery in the MLS: “The Disciplinary Committee determined that Mullans challenge was reckless, egregious, and showed utter disregard for the safety of his opponent.”
Let’s give the MLS credit for imposing a strong and unequivocal statement — that the nabobs of negativity that prowl the dark edges of the pitch intent on snuffing out the artistry and the creativity of the game will be punished– severely.
This is a step in the right direction.