Skip to content

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

Apr 19, 2012, 1:10 PM EST

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. David Moyes earns first win as Real Sociedad manager

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:10 PM EST

    Real Sociedad de Futbol v Elche FC - La Liga Getty Images

    A Carlos Vela hat trick helped the ex-Manchester United manager earn his first win in La Liga.

  2. Falcao and Rojo ready to return for United against Hull City

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:15 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-WEST BROM-MAN UTD Getty Images

    Loius van Gaal’s side received a huge boost with the news of the return of injured stars Radamel Falcao and Maros Rojo.

  3. Red Bulls’ season could rest on the shoulders of Tim Cahill

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:05 PM EST

    New England Revolution v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Final - Leg 1 Getty Images

    With Bradley Wright-Phillips out due to yellow card accumulation, it could be up to Tim Cahill to produce for New York.

  4. Real Madrid release statement criticizing Platini’s comments

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:10 PM EST

    FBL-EURO-2016-POR-ARM Getty Images

    Cristiano Ronaldo’s club was upset after the UEFA president said he believed a world champion should win the Ballon d’Or.

  5. Can Thibaut Courtois surpass Manuel Neuer as the world’s best?

    Nov 28, 2014, 7:04 PM EST

    Chelsea v Queens Park Rangers - Premier League Getty Images

    According to Gary Neville, there may soon be a changing of the guards for best goalkeeper in the world.

  6. Arsene Wenger: Gunners to buy during transfer window

    Nov 28, 2014, 6:13 PM EST

    FBL-ENG-PR-ARSENAL-MAN UTD Getty Images

    No team has been hit harder by injuries than Arsenal, who will look to bolster their squad during the January transfer window.

  7. UEFA schedules disciplinary hearing after pitch invasions at Spurs match

    Nov 28, 2014, 5:20 PM EST

    FBL-EUR-C3-TOTTENHAM-PARTIZAN Getty Images

    Tottenham’s Europa League match against Partizan Belgrade was briefly suspended after multiple fans stormed the pitch.

  8. Premier League Preview: Sunderland vs. Chelsea

    Nov 28, 2014, 4:30 PM EST

    FC Schalke 04 v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Sunderland face a daunting task as they host a Chelsea side that hasn’t lost since a friendly on August 3rd.

  9. Geoff Cameron talks Thanksgiving, Stoke City vs. Liverpool and more

    Nov 28, 2014, 3:50 PM EST

    USA Training & Press Conference - 2014 FIFA World Cup Getty Images

    Cameron talks turkey, playing at one of his favorite stadiums, sickness bugs and more in his first piece for PST.

  10. Liverpool’s Rodgers calls himself the bettor’s choice to get fired

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:13 PM EST

    Bulgaria Soccer Champions League AP

    It’s no surprise that the Liverpool manager is feeling the heat after the Reds 12th place start.

  11. Prince-Wright’s Premier League picks: Manchester United, Chelsea, QPR

    Nov 28, 2014, 2:00 PM EST

    Rooney bagged what turned out to be the game-winner as United go fourth. Getty Images

    Here’s how PST’s lead writer and editor sees things panning out this weekend.

  12. VIDEO: Seattle Sounders supporters, culture getting just recognition

    Nov 28, 2014, 1:20 PM EST

    MLS Galaxy Sounders Soccer AP

    It’s a vibrant and informative take on the big following in Seattle, one that even Sounders haters can respect for its size, dedication and creativity.

  13. Top Five storylines for Week 13 of the Premier League

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:35 PM EST

    Manchester City v Southampton - Premier League Getty Images

    Top Four and Bottom Three match-ups take the battle for Premier League places to a different level this weekend.

  14. WATCH: Premier League TV schedule – Week 13

    Nov 28, 2014, 12:00 PM EST

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Where and how to watch all the PL games during Week 13.

  15. Premier League Preview: Manchester United vs. Hull City

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:52 AM EST

    Manchester United v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    Hull City is looking for a historic win when they visit surging Manchester United on Saturday.

  16. Sure there’s “interest throughout Europe”, but where is the best spot for Jozy Altidore?

    Nov 28, 2014, 11:01 AM EST

    Altidore Getty Images

    We pick three clubs in three countries that could be a landing spot for the out-of-favor Sunderland striker in the January transfer window.

  17. Premier League Preview: West Bromwich Albion vs. Arsenal

    Nov 28, 2014, 10:10 AM EST

    West Bromwich Albion's Reid shouts at Arsenal's Cazorla during their English Premier League soccer match in London Reuters

    The Baggies are coming off losses to Chelsea and Newcastle, and are four points back of eighth place Arsenal. The NBCSN match kicks at 745am ET.

  18. Pick just three?!? FIFPro World XI midfielder shortlist is Juve-heavy, really good

    Nov 28, 2014, 9:37 AM EST

    FC Internazionale Milano v Juventus - Serie A Getty Images

    Spain (4) and Germany (3) are the only nations with multiple members.

  19. Roy Keane’s time with Aston Villa has come to an end

    Nov 28, 2014, 8:35 AM EST

    Aston Villa v Manchester City - Premier League Getty Images

    Manchester United’s legendary midfielder will stay in his assistant coach role for Ireland, spend more time with his family.

Featured video

PST Extra: Top 4 showdowns on Sunday