MLS Lays the Smack Down on Laying the Smack Down

MLS’ post match-discipline will work, but only if applied consistently
by Jeff Maurer   |   Thursday, April 05, 2012

MLS Disciplinary Committee starts punishing in earnest in 2012 season

Getting six-pack abs. Using a day planner. Swearing less. These are all things that I have - on several occasions - vowed to do. But damned if these ideas didn’t go straight to hell every time.

In the same way, MLS begins every year with a vow to protect its most skillful players. And every year, MLS quickly forgets this vow. But unlike me they don’t have stress at work and KFC’s delicious menu of gravy-based life-forms to blame for things falling apart.

So, when MLS announced during preseason that they would use post-match discipline to cut down on foul play - totes serial this time, for reals you guys! - I didn’t pay much attention. But yesterday, the MLS Disciplinary Committee punished four players - suspending three - for shenanigans pulled during this weekend’s matches.

Maybe they are serious...perhaps even totes serious.

I have mixed feeling about this. On one hand, I don’t want MLS to adopt the “fall = foul” custom, which is the worst thing about Central and South American soccer. But I do want the league to protect skillful players by punishing harsh fouls; MLS doesn’t need an NFL-type bounty-hunting scandal, if only because it would embarrass the league that the bounties being offered would probably be in the 40-50 dollar range.

Let’s look at each incident. But first, full disclosure: I am a DC United fan. Unlike Supreme Court Justices, I will not even bother pretending to be non-partisan. I see things through black-and-red colored glasses...literally - I got them on Wacky Shades Night in 2007.

Incident 1: Brandon McDonald goes through Blas Perez like a Taco Bell burrito. When this happened, I found myself yelling: “His studs were down! His legs weren’t high! He was close to the ball!” But in retrospect, pointing out laws that you could have broken but didn’t isn’t a very effective defense. If you rob a bank, the court isn’t going to be impressed by all the people you didn’t kill and all the tax and maritime laws that you didn’t break. Verdict: guilty.

Incident 2: Jair Benitez elbows Danny Cruz in the stomach. That is not how you perform the Heimlich, Jair. Guilty.

Incident 3: Danny Cruz confuses his stomach with his face. Hey, look, this happens - every guy has at one point walked in to work with two days of stubble and a stomach smooth as a baby’s ass because he got his stomach and his face confused. But when it happens right after an elbow is thrown, it seems a little cynical. We also know Cruz was actively lobbying the linesman (hey, it’s DC - people lobby) because NBC’s innovative profanity-catching microphones captured him saying “You fucking saw that!” and “He elbowed me in the face.” Bad, Danny. But good, NBC - I like my soccer broadcasts to have the edge of a Def Comedy Jam showcase.

Incident 4: Atiba Harris elbows Carlos Valdes in the stomach...I mean FACE! Elbowed him in the FACE! Those of us familiar with Atiba Harris’ work didn’t even need to see the video on this one: guilty. The guy’s a thug. If the MLS Disciplinary Committee is going to keep handing out suspensions, they should probably just hook up a direct line to Atiba Harris’ house like Batman had with Commissioner Gordon.

So, no, I don’t think the Disciplinary Committee has overstepped its bounds. But here’s the key: they need to do this every single week...even when it causes extra-man hours. This policy only works if it’s applied consistently. Players will adjust their style of play only when the punishments are routine and predictable (unless that player is James Harrison, who has probably participated in enough helmet-to-helmet hits to permanently disable his brain’s learning center).

Hopefully, MLS will stay consistent and the Dwayne De Rosarios and Freddy Monteros of the league will have space to do the things that makes soccer fun to watch. They just need a little’s probably slightly more likely to happen than me getting six-pack abs.


Georgetown Univ.
Club Domestic:
DC United
Club Foreign:
A comedian and avid fan who blogs about DC United for The Washington Post. He was a semifinalist on season 7 of Last Comic Standing and performs nationwide. A decent passer with a good strike from distance, but is glacially slow and has no left foot.