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Looking back on Omar Gonzalez’ very ill-advised elbow

Nov 8, 2012, 5:15 PM EDT

Word on post-season Disciplinary Committee action (from Major League Soccer’s league office): “The process is the same as the regular season, but the initial reviews have been accelerated.”

If that’s the case, Omar Gonzalez could be getting a some bad news in the next couple of days. At a minimum, the Galaxy defender – so crucial to Los Angeles’s chances this postseason – deserves strong committee consideration after this right elbow landed flush on San Jose’s Steven Lenhart in the 41st minute of last night’s game in Santa Clara:

The angle at 0:23 is especially telling. You can see Gonzalez’s elbow come up and nail Lenhart flush across the nose. The most concerning part of the action: The location of Gonzalez’s arm before he elevates. His arm is extended and bent in front of his chest. As he elevates, Gonzalez throws his elbow back, striking Lenhart.

It’s not exactly the most natural jumping motion.

Before talking about the Disciplinary Committee, lets consider referee Kevin Stott, who produced a yellow card on the play. How do you see that challenge, adjudicate it a foul, and not issue red? We often see players dismissed to merely leading with an elbow on aerial challenges. This was more than leading. This was swinging.

Was the swing intentional? Accidental? If the league’s Disciplinary Committee looks at the incident, that might effect a potential punishment’s weight, though it’s difficult to dissociate Gonzalez’s recent comments about Lenhart from Wednesday’s incident. Gonzalez’s recently called Lenhart “the biggest bastard in the league.” Those comments make it difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt.

That’s not to say the Disciplinary Committee will come down on last year’s Defender of the Year. Although any review will be handled the same way it was in the regular season, taking a playoff game away from somebody may require a special threshold. In the regular season, the committee may hand out punishment as a message, hoping to provide a deterrent to future actions. You want to be doing more than message-sending come playoff time.

To us, the foul clearly meets that special threshold, so you’ll forgive us for indulging in a piece of wild speculation: If Gonzalez does miss Sunday’s Western Conference final first leg, how much of an effect will that have on the series?

Given how important Gonzalez has been to LA’s defense since returning mid-season, the effect could be huge. Gonzalez is the man tasked with organizing the defense, and in situations where the Galaxy can control who’s marking whom, Gonzalez gets the more difficult assignment. That means he’d be the man tasked with stopping Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio. He’d be the man taksed with stopping Seattle’s Eddie Johnson. Particularly with A.J. DeLaGarza out, it’s hard to see how LA picks up the slack.

No matter how you look at it, the elbow was (to use a euphemism) highly ill-advised. At best, Gonzalez concedes a foul in a dangerous space while his team’s trying to protect a lead. A more likely scenario sees his team reduced to 10 with 49 minutes left in an elimination game. Worst case: Gonzalez gets suspended.

Now we wait and see if MLS will have their say.

  1. manutebol - Nov 8, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    that was filthy

  2. wyrm1 - Nov 8, 2012 at 6:56 PM

    It’s the Galaxy… no suspension needed.

  3. Dan Haug - Nov 8, 2012 at 8:53 PM

    I think, given the nature of this particular game, and the way it was reffed, a suspension of Gonzo would be a little harsh. This play is almost an exact replica of the Bernardez yellow in the third minute. So if Gonzo deserved red, then so did Bernardez (and in the very beginning of the game). In addition, Bernardez had a second foul called for a high elbow on Buddle very quickly after that play (although it didn’t connect as cleanly).

    I’d also be curious to hear your analysis of Lenhart going after Gonzo before the free kick that followed this foul. To me that type of play is also a serious issue that the disciplinary committee needs to deal with. Lenhart has a history of trying to provoke other players. It looks to me like that’s what he did after this play (knowing that Gonzo had just gotten a yellow, and that he (Lenhart) had a yellow to give), the SJ forward walked right up to Gonzo standing in the wall, started yelling at him, grabbed his shirt and started shaking him. The problem is that if this is a premeditated attempt to start a fight (hard to prove… but very similar to past events with Lenhart) then the league needs to decide if their just gonna let that sort of thing go.

  4. crnelson10 - Nov 8, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    I wish more defenders would do this to Lenhart, honestly.

  5. dreadpirate82 - Nov 9, 2012 at 11:21 AM

    Rumor has it Gonzalez jersey sales increased ten times in the 36 hours since the elbow. MLS fans around the country have a new favorite player.

  6. joanismylover - Nov 9, 2012 at 4:06 PM

    I think Mr. Farley’s analysis is correct, but the league will not suspend him. Lenhart didn’t do anything to Gonzalez and he whacks him. All you Lenhart haters need to re-adjust as to just who the thug is. I’ll concede that Lenhart acted in poor taste in 2011 when he tried to head the ball out of Saunders hands but in mitigation his father just died and he was given the rest of the season off to deal with that. But since that time he has, as Yallop has repeatedly pointed out, done nothing illegal. If he played dangerously or simulated this year, he would have been suspended for it. He hasn’t. He plays hard. Period. Some defenders aren’t used to it and complain.

    Gonzales is a big cry baby and a coward as evidenced by these last two games against San Jose. First he whines like a baby after the 2-2 draw at the end of the season, and now this. Throws an elbow for no reason. It’s not payback for Bernardez because it’s not Bernardez. It’s just a cheap shot. And if you look at the Bernadez yellow, you can see that Gonzalez is throwing an elbow, too. Berndardez just jumped higher. To top all of this, this classy guy started taunting our assistant coach Mark Watson after the playoff game which led to a huge scuffle between the two teams. Great guy.

    Despite his obvious talent, I hope Gonzalez never gets called to the USMNT. I fully expect MLS to ignore this event because without him, the Galaxy will leak goals and not make it to the final.

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