The eyes of the soccer world will once again be on MLS this week as they await to see what kind of punishment Marcos Mondaini receives for his clumsy and cynical tackle on Javier Morales that resulted in an apparent broken ankle. MLS, of course, set a new precedent with the 10-game suspension of Brian Mullan after he broke Steve Zakuani's leg with tackle on April 23.
In some ways, Mondaini's tackle was worse than Mullan's. Unlike Mullan, there can be no reasonable argument made about whether or not Mondaini was attempting to win the ball. Not only did he come in from behind, but he didn't even come from behind on the side of the ball. Mondaini's foul was clearly of the cynical variety, meant to slow up play as RSL was building the attack just outside the penalty area.
Of course, that does not mean MLS will automatically consider it "worse." Part of why Mullan's foul received such a harsh punishment seems to have been the perceived retaliatory nature of it. Mullan's foul was unquestionably more violent, even if it is the kind of foul players all over the world use to "send a message." It would be hard to argue that Mondaini was attempting to send any kind of message with his foul.
Knowing all of that, MLS clearly has to choose its steps carefully. Come off too soft on Mondaini, and it looks like they may have been catering to a large fan base with Mullan's suspension. Come off to harshly, and they risk starting an ever escalating standard for punishment in which could itself scare off players. Somewhere between six and 10 games seems about right.
In the meantime, MLS is without another one of its best players. In losing Steve Zakuani, David Ferreira and Javier Morales, the league has lost three players who were all expected to compete for the MVP honors and were among the most watchable and exciting players in the league. Clearly, this is about as close to a disaster as the league could ever dream of.