Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps Leathers doesn’t deserve extra scrutiny because of Mullan tackle

Leathers doesn’t deserve extra scrutiny because of Mullan tackle


Jonathan Leathers shouldn’t become a victim of bad timing.

Each and every week during the season, the league’s disciplinary committee reviews the goings-on of the previous week’s games. Of course, the red cards are looked at, but so are all of the other incidents. General managers will ask the league to review plays; those requests are always agreed to.

That means that Leathers’ tackle Saturday on reigning MVP David Ferreira is being reviewed. That shouldn’t be news. Leathers isn’t being singled out. It’s part of the ongoing procedure that happens at MLS headquarters week after week.

But it comes from the same weekend of play as a rash red-card challenge from Colorado Rapid Brian Mullan that broke the leg of Seattle winger Steve Zakuani. The Seattle playmaker and former No. 1 draft pick is expected to be sidelined for at least a year and a half.

The two injuries upstaged the play on the field. And Mullan’s tackle, a premeditated, thuggish act that deserves a long suspension, was brutal.

So, has the uproar over Mullan put Leathers in a bad light? This is a week that has MLS bashers, the ones who complain about their perceived thuggish nature of the league, out in force. And, it’s easy to get carried away and paint Mullan and Leathers with the same brush.

But the Mullan and Leathers incidents are apples and oranges.

The referee at Empire Field Saturday saw nothing wrong with Leathers’ challenge. Leathers got to the ball, as he got it off Ferreira’s feet for a resulting corner (on which FC Dallas scored, by the way). Replays showed that, while Leathers came in from behind, he didn’t go in studs-up. He got the ball. And, it looked as if Ferreira may have got his studs caught in the artificial turf as he went down.

Leathers is not to blame for an awkward fall — or the turf. Not only was he not carded on the field, no foul was called. Period. And, remember, MLS has asked its officials to crack down on “points of emphasis” this season. — one of those points is the protection of the man with the ball. So, even with all that in the ref’s mind, Leathers was still not adjudged to have broken the rules.

And, for Leathers to fined or suspended, the committee has to come to a unanimous decision that the tackle should have warranted a red card. According to MLS rules: “Where the referee sees an incident and either does not act, or rules only a foul or only a yellow card (i.e., anything other than a red card), the Committee will not in general issue a suspension, unless: The play in question is, in the unanimous opinion of the Committee from all available video evidence, a clear and unequivocal red card; AND the play in question is of an egregious or reckless nature, such that the Committee must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game.

“In determining whether a play is egregious or reckless, all factors are taken into account, including the fact of injury to any player.

“Where there is no injury, the Committee will not act except in extraordinary or exceptional circumstances.”

So, in an Easter weekend where Mullan is going to be made to wear a disciplinary crown of thorns, Leathers doesn’t deserve to get caught up in the hoopla.

Here’s to hoping that Major League Soccer’s disciplinary committee makes sure to look at both incidents separately, and not let Mullan’s actions colour its judgment over the Leathers tackle.

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One Comment

  1. david

    April 26, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    Why is everyone calling this a thuggish league? Yes it was a malicious and thuggish tackle and needs to be punished (the Mullan tackle). As I have stated to other people, in the three or so years I have been watching MLS, this is the first time I have seen a hard tackle cause this type of injury. In the EPL these hard tackles happen multiple times each season and the EPL is not called thuggish. Most commentators call it a fast physical league compared to the rest of Europe. In fact, MLS is described as being the most similar to EPL.

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