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Our first official MLS incident of “Mass Confrontation”

Mar 14, 2013, 1:10 PM EDT

NYRB mass

Major League Soccer’s disciplinary committee has issued its verdicts for the week.

The “standard stuff” was Kenny Mansally’s one-game suspension and undisclosed fine for a (pretty lame, chest-aimed) head butt last week in Real Salt Lake’s loss to D.C. United.

Also in that match, frustrated RSL striker Alvaro Saborio blew his Costa Rican stack on referee Sorin Stoica. MLS will take a little money for that one; again, the fine was undisclosed.

But here’s the one that will have all the MLS wonks among us buzzing: the first disciplinary committee shame finger pointed toward “Mass Confrontation.”  (Aside: When I finally start my rock band, that’s what we’re calling it.)

(MORE: Mass confrontation is a complete embarrassment, and MLS is doing something about it)

From the league release: “… Sporting Kansas City were issued an official warning by the Disciplinary Committee ‘for a violation of the League’s mass confrontation policy’ in the 95th minute in their 2-1 loss against Toronto FC at Rogers Centre.”

The initiative to prevent these unbecoming little gang-ups is commendable and quite necessary, as Richard Farley spelled out in the PST piece linked above. But let’s not pretend that this isn’t tricky business. Somewhat subjective, too. And as we know, one man’s “subjective” can become another man’s “arbitrary” if MLS officials aren’t careful.

What’s worse, it could lead to cries of favoritism.

Here’s the incident that drew official league censure:

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Now, look at another potential bit of mass confrontation business on which the league’s disciplinary committee chose not to act. It looks quite similar to me, as New York Red Bulls players surround referee Ricardo Salazar. Perhaps this one is just a little less aggressive. You decide …

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  1. paladinvt - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    This just illustrates how problematic applying this rule is going to be. The referee has a yellow (and red) card in his pocket to brandish if any of this stuff gets out of hand. If the guy in the center of the storm doesn’t think it’s worth punishment, then why should the disciplinary committee act? It’s not like this is something where the referee’s view is obscured or that the referee has a bad angle on. The referee is right there! I see this rule getting walked back in a hurry because of how difficult it is to administer.

    • Steve Davis - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:20 PM

      My point exactly. “Problematic application” is a good way to put it.

    • charliej11 - Mar 14, 2013 at 2:57 PM

      Well there is a simple solution penalize both of them and any other confrontations that even comes close.
      How many games you think it takes for players to realize the captain can come over and lob a protest that will go absolutely nowhere ( has it EVER gone anywhere ? ) and anything else is disrespectful and leads to commentors on blogs excessive ripping on reffing.

      Calls should be like balls and strikes in baseball. Boot em out of the game.
      Then, at that point, we are done with this garbage of protesting every call.

  2. nygiantstones - Mar 14, 2013 at 1:23 PM

    Neither of them warrants any kind of disciplinary action, IMO. However, the NY incident was worse, but that could be due to the concentration of players in the box with close proximity to the ref. The KC incident lasted less than 5 seconds, not a big deal really.

    • Steve Davis - Mar 14, 2013 at 3:18 PM

      Yes, that proximity thing is interesting, eh? I would imagine that running 40 yards to join the little dust-up is part of the calculus here (versus, as you point out, kinda being there anyway).

  3. dws110 - Mar 14, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    The only thing I can think of that might distinguish the SKC confrontation with any of a half-dozen others over the weekend is in the referee’s match report. As in, did Bazakos report something specific to that confrontation that other referee’s did not?

    Other than that, I can’t see any difference.

  4. CaliforniaRedskins - Mar 14, 2013 at 5:01 PM

    I know that this is a controversial issue for some, but I must say that I have enjoyed watching games this season without the mass of players crowded around a referee. The most obvious is when there’s a pk and you used to have 7 or 8 guys yelling at the ref every time. It’s a good rule and enforcement will get better as everyone gets used to it.

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