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Are these MLS “rules” or MLS “suggestions?” It’s going to be interesting with Seattle

Oct 14, 2013, 10:00 PM EDT

MC graphic

Here is the “First rule of rules:” It’s only a “rule” if someone really enforces it. Otherwise it’s just a suggestion. Or a really polite request. Like, say … asking for more salsa at the local Tex-Mex spot.

So answer me this: does MLS have a rule on Mass Confrontation or not? They said so – but there seems to be some selective enforcement at worst, or a slightly lesser violation of enforcement with no real teeth.

The disciplinary committee seems to be more tolerant of some incidences of mass confrontation than others. For instance, I went back and watched the June 29 mass confrontation incident that generated a fine for Toronto FC manager Ryan Nelsen – and there wasn’t much there. That’s just one example; there have been some disciplinary measures for mass confrontation, but plenty of others where the DC looked the other way.

What several Galaxy players did two weeks ago, when they were completely wrong about an important offside decision, was much worse. Bruce Arena did get a one-game suspension, but that was for leaving the technical area – but shouldn’t the players be held accountable at some point?

Either way, that was fairly tame compared to the way Seattle players twisted off on officials last night in Portland. Watch it here:



Everybody looks bad here. Seattle lost its collective cool. The officials couldn’t get hold of things. And it all started when Osvaldo Alonso went completely foolish, striking Will Johnson the way he did. As another example, his elbow was much worse (being more premeditated) than Shea Salinas’ elbow to Robbie Keane’s head area. That drew a league suspension for Salinas.

As for the Sounders’ textbook Mass Confrontation: see the graphic above, from an MLS explainer video on the topic and start checking the boxes. Off the bench, we had Mauro Rosales twice touching the referee’s assistant, right after several Sounders nearly chased the guy across the park.

Here’s the thing: in some ways, the disciplinary committee is in a tough spot here. Seattle is injury depleted as it is, and a very high profile club with tons of fans is in real danger of tumbling plum out of the playoffs. The danger increases measurably if Alonso and Rosales are suspended. (Further suspended in Alonso’s case.)

On the other hand, the committee cannot worry about that. It’s not fair, for instance, to suspend Federico Higuain an extra match for failing to leave in a timely manner, but then not adding to Alonso’s time in the penalty box (for doing essentially the same thing) just because Seattle has more ability to flood the league office with social media meanness and malice.

  1. fadedtoblack - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:13 PM

    Same ole BS. There’s rules for the bigger clubs and then there are rules for everyone else.

    • mrstev - Oct 15, 2013 at 3:11 AM

      You are correct sir. And it sucks.

  2. danielofthedale - Oct 14, 2013 at 11:58 PM

    Mass Confrontation is right at the top of the list of things I wish would go away from soccer. It is such a childish way to act and is the height of mob mentality and strikes at the integrity of he game. These players try to bully a referee( usually smaller in size than the players) to make a call that should not be made or ignore a clear foul.

    Only the players involved in the play or the Captian should speak to the officials and any other players that bum rush the official should get a yellow card on the spot. You suspend a few guys for acting like a total idiot and it should really put a stop to this awful behavior.

  3. socamr - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:03 AM

    Not sure what you’re watching on the video’s of the elbows – Salinas’ is MUCH more dangerous than Alonso’s.

    Alonso should probably have a game tacked on for failure to leave the field promptly. be interesting to see what they do with the mass confrontation issue – have any *players* (not managers) been suspended yet under the rule? The object should be to penalize all teams/players equally, so if it’s been all fines so far (and my imperfect memory thinks that’s what we’ve seen) it would be disappointing to see suspensions handed out here just because it’s a high profile game & team. If there have actually been suspensions of players for this infraction, then this game probably calls for it as well.

    • talgrath - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:52 AM

      Technically, the rules don’t say players are to be suspended (post match) for mass confrontation, just fined. The referee has the power (and always has) to give out yellows and reds for confronting referees though. What MLS changed was that they said they would give out post-match fines for mass-confrontation, and they have, albeit rarely.

      • talgrath - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:52 AM

        Woops, meant to put this on the article itself, sorry.

    • mrstev - Oct 15, 2013 at 3:10 AM

      Dude, you’ve got to be kidding me!!!
      Salinas and Keane were both tussling hard for the ball and Salinas’ arm gets high and ALMOST catches Keane’s head. You’re telling me that’s worse?! Please go watch the video again… All the way through.
      To make matters worse, Keane then makes a meal of it and takes a total dive. I lost a lot of respect for him that day.

      • socamr - Oct 15, 2013 at 10:56 AM

        Salinas’ play is dangerous – that would be a heck of a blow to the head (and I agree about losing respect for Keane). But no one is getting hurt from what Alonso did (and Johnson makes a meal of it also).

      • mlsconvert88888 - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:23 PM

        The melodramatic flopping in soccer has always bothered me. I understand a player’s desire to draw the referee’s attention to the shenanigans of his opponent, but it kills me to see a guy rolling on the pitch from what pretty much amounts to a tap.

        Will Johnson didn’t need to go to his knees after that shot, but at the same time if a guy is gonna throw ‘bows over a little smack talking, that is something the ref should probably note. In this case, I don’t see Johnson’s actions as particularly virtuous, but it was the right call on Ozzie, so I’ll look at the “stumble to the knees and shrug” routine as a step in the right direction over the “dear god I’ve been shot, tell me mother I lover her!” act

  4. mknow406a - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:43 AM

    It’s simple… players sell tickets. Let’s just say, Mr. Noname from Chivas USA, on his first match after being signed from the playground, gets a 3 match suspension for confronting the officials. Now let’s say the following week, Clint Dempsey gets pulled down in the area, has a game tying scoring chance denied, and responds by getting in the official’s face? How many games does he get? Well, if the following week the Sounders are in Columbus. Do you really think the Crew front office wants Dempsey in the stands and not on the field? His presence alone will sell an extra couple hundred tickets easily. Stars bring fans, fans mean money. NO owner wants an opposing star out for THEIR home games! What does this mean? Until most venues sell out regardless of the opponent, nothing is going to change…

  5. talgrath - Oct 15, 2013 at 12:52 AM

    Technically, the rules don’t say players are to be suspended (post match) for mass confrontation, just fined. The referee has the power (and always has) to give out yellows and reds for confronting referees though. What MLS changed was that they said they would give out post-match fines for mass-confrontation, and they have, albeit rarely.

  6. hildezero - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:04 AM

    So did any one get fined? The red card seemed okay for what Ozzie did, but he has to get fined for arguing over something that he did commit. At first, I thought that Ozzie wasn’t guilty of anything, because he was defending himself very well until I saw the replay.

  7. pacificcoastharvest - Oct 15, 2013 at 3:30 AM

    How about we focus on competent reffing then worry about who’s complaining.

    • smorris793 - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:52 AM

      No. Competent refs and mature payers are two separate issues. Both important yes, but separate. If you don’t like your fat neighborhood cop you still don’t have a right to rob a bank. These guys are professionals and need to act like it. Part of that is accepting bad reffing (which did not happen here, the only bad reffing was that more cards weren’t handed out during the confrontation).

    • donjuego - Oct 15, 2013 at 2:58 PM

      MLS refs are not as bad as everyone makes out. They have some problems and areas of improvement, but are really not that bad.

      Just closely watch some UECL games on Fox and you’ll see the same problems.

  8. creek0512 - Oct 15, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    More “guidelines” really,

  9. Sevag Sarkissian - Oct 15, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Salinas got a game suspension for an elbow to the head of Keane. Lenhart sent Purdy to the hospital, ending his season and gets away with just a yellow card? Lenhart is a repeat offender, causing harm & injury. Yeah, he plays hard but a lot of his actions are intentional.

    So how is Lenhart getting away with just a yellow for that multiple fracture causing elbow to the head again?

  10. geojock - Oct 15, 2013 at 1:37 PM

    MLS is a mess right now. No one is being held accountable. Not the players not the refs. Their selective suspensions have not done anything because they have not enforced them consistently. I would like to see an MLS ref who does not ref a game like a coward. And just throwing cards out doesnt count. You have to address each issue directly and quickly. If you give a warning, a card better come out the next time the behavior happens.

    • wyrm1 - Oct 15, 2013 at 6:14 PM

      The problem is that any MLS ref that actually deals with the endless dissent and starts giving cards to star players for the dissent will very quickly be an ex-MLS ref. MLS won’t back their (technically PRO’s) refs in these situations, so they will continue.

      It will take MLS making supporting refs a real priority to see an end to this sort of stuff.

      • geojock - Oct 16, 2013 at 9:35 AM

        I agree that may be the case, but I would like to see a ref have the guts challenge that. Have we seen anyone do so? If the ref doesnt have the guts to stand up for his job, then why would we expect them to have the guts to stand up to screaming coaches, superstars in front of thousands of screaming fans.

  11. SD1 Timbers Special Forces - Oct 15, 2013 at 2:52 PM

    The real issue isn’t Alonso but Rosales who grabbed and threw the ref’s arm while yelling at him after leaving the bench. TWICE. That is unacceptable.

  12. chadmoon1 - Oct 16, 2013 at 6:40 PM

    Seattle should have about 10 eligible players this week to play FC Dallas after that mess. Their behavior was atrocious. How Alonso even has a complaint I’m not sure, but he sure tried to make one. The club should be fined a hefty amount for not controlling it’s players, and players should be suspended for that behavior.

    I have a possible solution: If the players behave that way, the referee gives a red card to the team, and the opposing team gets to choose a field player that then must leave. With the threat of playing with 9 men, maybe that crap wouldn’t happen.

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