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. WATCH LIVE: Premier League Deadline Day Show

    Sep 1, 2015, 5:34 PM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    Clear your schedule at 7 p.m. ET for two hours of coverage detailing a wild and crazy Deadline Day in the Premier League. Watch live on NBCSN or online, right here.

  2. Complete list of every transfer in the Premier League on Deadline Day

    Sep 1, 2015, 4:24 PM EDT

    FBL-FRA-LIGUE1-MONACO-BASTIA Getty Images

    Take a look at every transfer made in the Premier League on a wild and crazy Deadline Day.

  3. Aaron Lennon inks three-year deal with Everton

    Sep 1, 2015, 3:32 PM EDT

    Everton v Burnley - Premier League Getty Images

    The former Tottenham man spent the end of last season on loan at Goodison Park, and now the move has been made permanent.

  4. Leicester City signs Nathan Dyer on loan from Swansea City

    Sep 1, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    Swansea City v York City - Capital One Cup Second Round Getty Images

    The winger was flown into Leicester on the owner’s helicopter as a last minute signing for the Foxes.

  5. Manchester United fires back on De Gea saga, laying blame at feet of Real Madrid

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:55 PM EDT

    Alexander Buttner, Gareth Bale AP

    Let’s hope these guys match up in the UEFA Champions League, where time can be kept on the field.

  6. GRADES: How did each Premier League team fare in the Summer Transfer Window?

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor gives each team a grade after a busy summer in the transfer market.

  7. West Brom chairman reacts to Berahino furor over rejected Spurs bids; Takes shot at Levy

    Sep 1, 2015, 2:09 PM EDT

    during the Barclays Premier League match between West Bromwich Albion and Manchester City at The Hawthorns on August 10, 2015 in West Bromwich, England. Getty Images

    West Bromwich Albion chairman Jeremy Peace is speaking out on the Saido Berahino saga at the Hawthorns.

  8. USMNT Hyndman stays put at Fulham, will have trials to determine next home

    Sep 1, 2015, 1:37 PM EDT

    Hyndman Getty Images

    Frustrated at Fulham, American teen Emerson Hyndman looks set to stay at Craven Cottage through the final year of his contract.

  9. One for the future: Chelsea buys Jamaican defender, loans him back to Reading

    Sep 1, 2015, 1:10 PM EDT

    chelseafc.com chelseafc.com

    Hector earned his first six caps for the Reggae Boyz and participated in all three of Jamaica’s matches at the Copa America in Chile.

  10. Watford adds from Roma, Palace, Brugge; Sends Mexico’s Layun on loan

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:45 PM EDT

    Colombia's forward Victor Ibarbo eyes the ball during the 2015 Copa America football championship quarter-final match against Argentina, in Viña del Mar, Chile, on June 26, 2015.   AFP PHOTO / JUAN BARRETO        (Photo credit should read JUAN BARRETO/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    The captain of Algeria, a veteran of Colombia and a Belgian U-21 player are heading to the Premier League side at Vicarage Road.

  11. Saido Berahino slams West Brom, tries to force move to Tottenham Hotspur

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:35 PM EDT

    150119-saido-berahino-280

    Young striker is not happy at all as Baggies continue to block Spurs’ advances.

  12. Spurs, USMNT winger DeAndre Yedlin finds his loan destination at Sunderland

    Sep 1, 2015, 12:03 PM EDT

    Honduras v United States Getty Images

    Yedlin joins American prospect Lynden Gooch on the Premier League squad, where Jozy Altidore spent a tumultuous season-and-a-half.

  13. Bournemouth adds longtime Crystal Palace striker Glenn Murray

    Sep 1, 2015, 11:20 AM EDT

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptu4othjmdgxmtq5mwvmzmniywvlmjflmju3mdizn2ji AP

    Crystal Palace feels ready to move on from their longtime striker, with Connor Wickham having joined Palace this summer.

  14. Here’s how Premier League clubs can still sign players two hours after the deadline

    Sep 1, 2015, 11:02 AM EDT

    PremierLeagueNBC

    That’s right, there’s a loophole to keep this madness going for an extra two hours. Think of it as extra-time.

  15. Chelsea sign center back Papy Djilobodji from Nantes

    Sep 1, 2015, 10:15 AM EDT

    Paris Saint-Germain FC v FC Nantes - Ligue 1 Paris Saint-Germain FC v FC Nantes - Ligue 1

    Senegal international arrives at the Bridge to bolster Chelsea’s backline.

  16. Everton sign defender Mori for $14.5 million from River Plate

    Sep 1, 2015, 9:50 AM EDT

    FBL-ARGENTINA-RIVER-BANFIELD Getty Images

    Toffees seal deal for Argentine international center back.

Featured video

MOTD: United's offensive struggles