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

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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:

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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.