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. Report: Jordan Henderson agrees new $150,000-per-week contract to stay at Liverpool

    Apr 20, 2015, 9:44 PM EDT

    Jordan Henderson, Liverpool FC Jordan Henderson, Liverpool FC

    Liverpool’s captain-in-waiting is reportedly set to sign a new long-term deal at Anfield.

  2. UEFA Champions League preview: Can PSG, Bayern come back from 3-1 down to Barcelona, Porto?

    Apr 20, 2015, 8:15 PM EDT

    Pep Guardiola, FC Bayern Munich Pep Guardiola, FC Bayern Munich

    PSG and Bayern Munich did themselves no favors in the first leg, but it’s still 90 minutes from over.

  3. Qatar, FIFA plan to house 12,000 fans on cruise ships at 2022 World Cup

    Apr 20, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT

    Sepp Blatter, FIFA president Sepp Blatter, FIFA president

    In FIFA and Qatar’s latest installment of “No, We’re Not Joking, We’re Serious”…

  4. Former USMNT DF Steve Cherundolo promoted to assistant manager at Hannover

    Apr 20, 2015, 5:27 PM EDT

    Steve Cherundolo, Hannover 96 & USMNT Steve Cherundolo, Hannover 96 & USMNT

    Steve Cherundolo got a promotion on Monday, under less than desirable circumstances, but he’s still advancing in the coaching world rather quickly.

  5. MLS Player of the Week — Week 7: FC Dallas’ Fabian Castillo

    Apr 20, 2015, 4:53 PM EDT

    Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas Fabian Castillo, FC Dallas

    He’ll be an MLS MVP one day, but for now Fabian Castillo will have to settle for MLS Player of the Week.

  6. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 7

    Apr 20, 2015, 4:09 PM EDT

    Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC Getty Images

    Week 7 was chock full of goals — some really great ones, in fact — making this week’s Team of the Week tough to pick.

  7. Premier League Power Rankings: Big climbers galore as momentum kicks in

    Apr 20, 2015, 3:25 PM EDT

    Leicester City v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    With five weeks to go, in-form sides are surging up our rankings of power.

  8. VIDEO: Is Chelsea’s defensive style boring? Do they need to entertain us?

    Apr 20, 2015, 2:06 PM EDT

    The Blues are inching towards the 2014-15 title but many are unimpressed with their defensive displays. Let’s sit down and think about this.

  9. New UEFA rules: An Arsenal FA Cup win could help Tottenham qualify for Europe…

    Apr 20, 2015, 1:18 PM EDT

    Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League Tottenham Hotspur v Arsenal - Premier League

    If the Gunners win the FA Cup next month it could well book Spurs a place in the Europa League. Seriously.

  10. Premier League Playback: Manchester United prove they can challenge Chelsea for the title

    Apr 20, 2015, 12:09 PM EDT

    Manchester United v Aston Villa - Premier League Getty Images

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes a look back at Week 33 in the PL.

  11. Sepp Blatter: Putin, Russia will host “best ever World Cup” in 2018

    Apr 20, 2015, 10:40 AM EDT

    Blatter: “Nothing will get in the way of Russia hosting the best ever World Cup.”

  12. Guardiola issues rallying call, says Bayern Munich will beat FC Porto

    Apr 20, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT

    1899 Hoffenheim v FC Bayern Muenchen - Bundesliga Getty Images

    Bayern’s boss positive his side can overturn 3-1 deficit in Tuesday’s second leg.

  13. The 2 Robbies podcast: Chelsea boring? United’s progress and Klopp for City?

    Apr 20, 2015, 9:15 AM EDT

    The 2 Robbies

    Earle and Mustoe dissect Chelsea’s defensive display and much more in the latest podcast.

  14. Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale set to miss three weeks, Champions League clash vs. Atletico, with injury

    Apr 20, 2015, 7:31 AM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-MALAGA FBL-ESP-LIGA-REAL MADRID-MALAGA

    Welsh superstar to miss Wednesday’s clash against Atletico Madrid after picking up calf injury.

  15. With top clubs calling, Danny Ings doesn’t want to be second-choice striker

    Apr 19, 2015, 10:09 PM EDT

    Burnley v Arsenal - Premier League Getty Images

    With clubs such as Liverpool and Manchester United reportedly interested in signing the Burnley goalscorer, Ings has said he will only go where he can get consistent playing time.

  16. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 0-1 Portland Timbers

    Apr 19, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT

    Khiry Shelton, Alvas Powell AP

    The Portland Timbers had to grind out a win at Yankee Stadium, just squeaking by a David Villa-less NYCFC.

  17. VIDEO: Manchester United is closing the gap on Chelsea

    Apr 19, 2015, 8:05 PM EDT

    Despite losing to Chelsea over the weekend, Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino think Manchester United is already looking ahead to next season’s Premier League title chase.

Featured video

Hazard seals victory for Chelsea