Skip to content

Why Major League Soccer got it right on Rafa Marquez’s three-game suspension

Apr 19, 2012, 1:10 PM EDT

New York Red Bulls Media Day Getty Images

I know the umbrage and outrage is ricocheting around the internet now, wondering why Major League Soccer didn’t wallop Rafa Marquez a little harder over the head with the frying pan of justice.

Me? I’d say justice was served with Thursday’s announcement of a three-game suspension for the reckless and senseless actions that have put San Jose attacker Shea Salinas out for 6-8 weeks.

(I covered some of the context and consequences in a previous post.)

I do get the reflexive reaction here. In a lot of circles, Rafa Marquez is a shadowy figure with a history of menacing behavior who deserves to have the book thrown at him.  Who could possibly forget Marquez’s flying kung fu combo assault on Cobi Jones back in the 2002 World Cup, where the Mexican international defied the laws of physics by simultaneously head butting and kicking his American opponent?

A bunch of people haven’t forgotten, so that’s fueling some of the extra ire in this case. The Mexico-U.S. rivalry surely simmers, sub-plot style, in the backdrop on this one.

But the disciplinary committee’s job isn’t to administer frontier justice nor to right previous wrongs. And it most certainly shouldn’t consider nationality and international rivalries when dealing with the important business of crime and punishment.

At its core, the Marquez suspension and the ongoing, prickly practice of issuing retroactive suspensions based on video evidence is about player awareness, and about Major League Soccer goosing the enterprise to create the product they want.

I completely understand the call for a longer suspension, something more along the lines of what Salinas will miss (probably somewhere around 6-8 games). But this really isn’t eye-for-an-eye stuff – and anybody suggesting MLS move in that direction really hasn’t thought this through.

If you go there, then perhaps Shalrie Joseph (a very important player for New England) would be out for an equal duration as the injured Ricardo Villar (a backup midfielder for FC Dallas, although he was starting due to other injuries). Fair swap? Not really – especially considering that Joseph’s tackle was pretty low on the scale of menace.

Injuries do happen. They are unfortunate, but they can’t be legislated out of the game. Plenty of injuries have nothing to do with the reckless, careless or violent actions that Major League Soccer is trying so hard to reduce. Some do, and injuries are rightly being considered when the disciplinary committee adjudicates these matters – just not in equal measure of recovery time to punishment length.

The messages are being heard by players. The course correction (so far overdue) is under way and players know they bang and bust at their own risk.

I feel bad for the fallen Earthquakes midfielder, but this isn’t about Rafa Marquez and Shea Salinas per se.

The bigger picture is about creating a better game, enforcing tougher standards, ensuring player safety and delivering a more watchable product. We’re all better served when the soccer  is a little easier on the eyes, a game with more finesse and a little less fouling, obstructing, colliding and crunching – the tactics that mitigate and marginalize skill in this sport.

Latest Posts
  1. PST Extra: Getting you ready for The Manchester Derby (video)

    Oct 30, 2014, 1:35 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Mike Prindiville and Joe Prince-Wright join Jenna Corrado to discuss the Manchester Derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.

  2. Alan Pardew: The Premier League’s antihero

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:38 PM EDT

    Pardew Getty Images

    Like Steve McQueen in “Papillon,” only nattily-attired, the Newcastle United manager just seems to be constantly yelling out, “Hey… I’m still here.”

  3. Another Premier League club linked with US investor, ex-MLB owner

    Oct 30, 2014, 12:09 PM EDT

    Swansea

    He’s being linked with Swansea City, though club chairman Huw Jenkins said while the club is entertaining investors, any specific names would be “pure speculation.”

  4. European clubs propose later domestic Cup finals, April-May World Cup in 2022

    Oct 30, 2014, 11:15 AM EDT

    Qatar 2022

    The proposed moves would leave only 10 days prep time before the World Cup began, and would also alter the UEFA Champions League schedule.

  5. Zombie Luis Suarez terrifies London (Yes, this video is a Halloween prank)

    Oct 30, 2014, 10:40 AM EDT

    Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 9.52.50 AM

    What do you think? Mean-spirited to the public or just a decent Candid Camera-style prank?

  6. Emotional Whitecaps react to controversial PK ouster: “It was such a soft call.”

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:51 AM EDT

    Matias Laba, Kendall Waston,  Michel AP

    “I’ve got 30 and 34-year-olds in my locker room in tears because we feel it’s been unfairly taken away from us,” said coach Carl Robinson.

  7. Rumors know no window: Liverpool after Reus, Manchester United wants Draxler

    Oct 30, 2014, 9:02 AM EDT

    FC St. Pauli v Borussia Dortmund - DFB Cup Getty Images

    And it’s claimed that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will sign a veteran back from Juventus, bucking his trends of signing attackers and youth.

  8. Indonesian clubs concede five own goals in four minutes, may have feared mafia (video)

    Oct 30, 2014, 8:19 AM EDT

    BBC BBC

    PSS Sleman and PSIS Semarang have been disqualified from their country’s playoffs after conceding five own goals in their their match.

  9. VIDEO: Hugely-controversial call sees FC Dallas past Vancouver in playoffs. Your vote?

    Oct 30, 2014, 7:44 AM EDT

    Darren Mattocks, Kendall Waston, Ethen Sampson, Mark Geiger AP

    Michel converted the penalty past David Ousted, and FC Dallas hung on for the win in an otherwise fast-paced, fun game in Texas.

  10. Report: Carlos Vela to accept call-up to Mexican National Team

    Oct 29, 2014, 11:10 PM EDT

    Real Sociedad de Futbol v Getafe CF - La Liga Getty Images

    Carlos Vela is set to return to the Mexican National Team making them a much more dangerous side.

  11. Trailer released for ‘Die Mannschaft’, story of Germany’s 2014 World Cup win

    Oct 29, 2014, 10:30 PM EDT

    Germany v Argentina: 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Final AP

    Nothing like a behind-the-scenes World Cup doc to pique the interest.

  12. Vincent Tan ready to invest in Major League Soccer

    Oct 29, 2014, 9:42 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League

    Vincent Tan. Coming to a MLS club near you!

  13. Timbers’ Steve Zakuani announces retirement from professional soccer

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:50 PM EDT

    Steve Zakuani AP

    Steve Zakuani. A supremely talented player, forced to call it quits way too early.

  14. Fan slaps Franck Ribery with a scarf, David Alaba hits a belter in Bayern’s win over Hamburg

    Oct 29, 2014, 8:01 PM EDT

    Hamburger SV v FC Bayern Muenchen - DFB Cup Getty Images

    Franck Ribery is short but probably not the kind of guy you want to mess with.

  15. League Cup Roundup: Balotelli saves Liverpool, Newcastle defeat Manchester City

    Oct 29, 2014, 7:00 PM EDT

    Liverpool v Swansea City - Capital One Cup Fourth Round

    A late equalizer from Mario Balotelli helps spur the rally that sees Liverpool into the League Cup quarter-finals.

  16. Rio Ferdinand suspended three matches, fined $40,000, for abusive tweet

    Oct 29, 2014, 5:07 PM EDT

    Queens Park Rangers v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Beware, Premier League footballers. The FA is all over Twitter.

  17. Report: Spanish legend Raul signs with the New York Cosmos

    Oct 29, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    FC Schalke 04 - Press Conference Getty Images

    Raul signs with the Cosmos, will head up the youth program upon retirement.

  18. Getafe’s Alexis suspended four months for swipe at Mario Mandzukic

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:42 PM EDT

    VfB Stuttgart v FC Getafe - Pre Season Friendly Getty Images

    Mandzukic makes a meal of it and the Royal Spanish Football Federation eats it up.

  19. Kolorov: City have been better than United for ‘five or six years’

    Oct 29, 2014, 3:10 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    In the lead up to the Manchester Derby, Aleksander Kolorov believes City have overtaken United as kings of Manchester.

Featured video

PST Extra: The Manchester derby