As the Internet world is wont to do, there were a lot of instant reactions to Marcos Mondaini's four-game suspension and $1,500 fine for his ankle-breaking tackle of Javier Morales. Most of those reactions were extremely critical. From calling it a "slap on the wrist" to claims that MLS is turning the offensive third into "Thunderdome," no one seemed to want to see that this was still among the heaviest punishment's MLS had ever handed down.
I totally get that Mondaini's suspension seems light in comparison to the 10 games the league gave Brian Mullan for his own leg-breaking tackle of Steve Zakuani. With that as the precedent, I thought a suspension of 6-8 games would have been totally fair.
So, yes, this suspension does seem to imply that Javier Morales is somehow less important than Zakuani, which is ridiculous. Morales was a clear MVP candidate and is the exact kind of player MLS should be seeking to protect.
There's no question that whatever message MLS was trying to send with Mullan's punishment has now been muddied. Is it really all about the perceived state of mind? That seems like a path riddled with traps. The league is being accused of inconsistency, and I can't pretend to defend that part of it. This does seem inconsistent. The bulk of the more vocal response, though, has puzzlingly claimed Mondaini's punishment was overly lenient.
I think we're maybe losing sight of the fact that three weeks ago, this would have seemed like a remarkably heavy punishment. Many of the same people who are claiming four games is too light were the same people wondering aloud if Mullan deserved any punishment beyond his automatic one-game red-card ban. Tyrone Marshall's three-game ban for his leg-breaking tackle of Kenny Cooper in 2007 was, until recently, the precedent. There are plenty of players, coaches and commentators who believe tackles like this are simply part of soccer and that punishing them too harshly risks changing the game in unintended ways.
With this punishment, MLS has at least shown that this mindset is changing, even if it's not as drastic as we'd like. There's obviously some trepidation on the part of the disciplinary committee -- which is comprised of three former players, a former coach and a ref -- to clearly bolster the message they sent on Mullan's punishment, but they are at least making some efforts to crack down on these late, dangerous and sloppy tackles. Maybe I'm squinting a little too hard to find the silver glimmer of hope, but I do think we're at least moving in the right direction.