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.