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Another weekend, another star goes down in MLS

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Canada’s Will Johnson scored the winner on a goalmouth scramble to give Real Salt Lake a 1-0 win over Chivas USA on Saturday, but the talking point of the game — indeed, the weekend of MLS action at large — will be yet another serious injury to a star player. This time, it was Javier Morales, RSL’s midfield sparkplug, who will miss months because of a fracture and dislocation of the left ankle after he was brought down from behind on a red-card worthy challenge from Chivas’ Marcos Mondaini.

MLS has just lost reigning MVP David Ferreira to a broken ankle, on what was an unfortunate but legal challenge from Vancouver’s Jonathan Leathers. But Colorado’s Brian Mullan is serving a 10-game ban for his red-card challenge that fractured the leg of Seattle winger Steve Zakuani, sending the Sounders’ playmaker to the sidelines for 18 months.

With Morales, MLS has lost another star. And, inevitably, Mondaini’s challenge will be compared to Mullan.

In this case, Mondaini was originally given a yellow, which was changed to a red. That’s big. On a yellow card foul, the MLS Disciplinary Committee needs to be unanimous when ruling on suspensions. But in a case of a red card, the committee doesn’t need to be unanimous. Major League Soccer will look at the play later this week as a matter of course. All incidents are reviewed by the Disciplinary Committee.

Mondaini, though has a couple of mitigating circumstances in his favour; at least when it comes to a comparison to the Mullan challenge. Morales, unlike Zakuani, was a threat on goal. He had moved in off the left and was cutting across the top of the box with the ball at his feet. For Morales, that’s shooting range. And, the tackle, while very clumsy and very late, can at least be explained away as an attempt to get to the ball. That wasn’t the case in the Zakuani tackle.

But this is for sure; Real Salt Lake is advertised as the deepest team in MLS. Without one of the best playmakers and clutch performers in the league, that depth will be tested.

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