Wednesday, April 11, 2012

League Got Joseph Ban Right

Shalrie Joseph was the latest victim of the MLS Disciplinary Committee. On Tuesday he was slapped with a one-match ban for an incident during Thursday's 1-0 loss to FC Dallas. On the play, Joseph went into a tackle from behind, toppled Ricardo Villar and was booked for doing so.

Not good enough, the committee decided and in essence decided that the play was worthy of a red card. Had he gotten a red card originally of course this probably would not have happened. But he didn't and now we're debating the merits of this suspension. At least, there seems to be quite a bit of debate out there.

I can't say I disagree with the findings, though. For several reasons.

For starters, that was a harsh tackle. It was from behind, reckless and the kind that can cause serious damage. Last season, some similarly awful challenges cost Steve Zakuani and Javier Morales quite a bit of pain and grief. The league is rightly trying to do something about it, and if players continue to committ such foolish challenges they will be punished, whether it's on the field or in instances such as these that Joseph finds himself.

Now, it may seem as if this undermines the officiating and that it shows some sort of disrespect to the officials. Effectively, the committee is saying that the call was not good enough, that it was flat wrong, and then they went ahead and corrected it. Well, what I would say to that is this - since when has the media, fans and players shown any sort of collective support or respect of the officials? Watch any MLS game and at one point or another you will see players swarming around the official after a call, protesting a call, demanding the call be changed, barking at, yelling at, all but hitting the official. Fans in the stands or on various social media outlets will voice their displeasure of the officiating and stories are written about how certain calls affected matches. All of that undermines the officials and goes on consistently, and yet now it's an issue?

If anything, this sends a message to the officials that there needs to be stiffer penalties during games so that this does not have to happen again. It's a way of helping the match officials, not hurting them or undermining them. The league wants certain things punished more, wants to eradicate certain things from games and one way of correcting and eliminating these behaviors is by actively helping the match officials stamp it out in games. In other words, this Joseph decision isn't just a one-off thing. It's not that this tackle was bad and it should be punished; it's that this tackle was bad and these kinds of tackles are unwanted in MLS matches and players need to know that in one form or another.

Also, Villar is out for at least one match with a mid-foot sprain. According to reports, Villar's injury is a week-by-week injury but if nothing else it's a setback since Villar had scored twice and was becoming an important player for FC Dallas.

Now, here's the play in question from various angles:

That's a harsh tackle. It should have been a red card, plain and simple.

And next time, it will be.

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