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Russell Berrisford

Russell Berrisford

Russell’s support of Derby County eventually led him to leave the country. He has lived in Canada since 2007 and currently writes about soccer for The Vancouver Sun.


The MLS Easter Parade

Written by on April 25, 2011 | 7 Comments »
Posted in MLS

Goal scorers and injuries dominated this particular round of Major League Soccer. Thierry Henry and Landon Donovan got two goals apiece to help their sides to comfortable wins, but elsewhere two key players sustained potentially season ending injuries.

Seattle’s Steve Zakuani was the victim of  a reckless challenge by Colorado’s Brian Mullan that earned a straight red card, and last seasons MVP David Ferreira suffered a broken ankle against Vancouver.

Both players will have taken some comfort that their teams got crucial away wins but their plight does, once again, raise the question about the level of physical challenges in the MLS. Were both players the victims of premeditated tackles?

MLS has chosen not to include the Jonathan Leathers tackle on Ferreira in its highlights package but it happened right in front of me at the game and it certainly didn’t look like a foul at the time (a corner was awarded) so I’d put that one down to a combination of bad luck and possibly the turf used by the Whitecaps that does seem to increase the number of injuries to their own players (although if anybody saw the game on TV I’d be interested to know if the challenge was legitimate).

The Mullan tackle on Zakuani was different in that although there may have been no intention to injure the Seattle winger the manner of the challenge was such that if he got it wrong then injury would almost certainly occur, and Mullan got it very wrong.

Perhaps the most worrying thing though is that in a post-match interview Mullan said that he would have no problem making the same challenge again. Some players don’t seem to have learned that lack of intent isn’t a “get out of jail free” card that can be used to excuse injuring an opponent.

In the rest of the action there was a first win for Chivas USA as they beat San Jose 2-1, and the New England Revolution welcomed new recruit Benny Feilharber with a 3-2 home win against Sporting KC.

The spoils were shared between Chicago and Houston and in Toronto where Columbus were the visitors.

It will be interesting to see how the MLS hierarchy react to serious injuries to two of their major attractions but the truth is that, in this case, there is little they can do.

The officials probably got the decisions right and the onus now falls on the coaches and the players to accept that they have a level of responsibility to their fellow professionals when they are on the field. They need to remember that tackling carelessly makes you just as culpable as tackling viciously.

7 responses to “The MLS Easter Parade”

  1. Al Harris says:

    Can’t agree with you, Russell. In the Mullan case, the league can and should send a message. It was the definition of a reckless challenge, and the response of the player involved and his team indicates that the only tears shed were of the crocodile variety. If Garber is serious about cracking down on dangerous play in the league, at least a 5 game suspension and a record fine is called for. Anything less and the thugs will just smile and continue business as usual.

  2. John Bladen says:


    I didn’t see the challenge, but it sounds like it was “nothing new” in MLS terms. Football is a fast paced and physical game (though less so than some others), thus some injuries are inevitable. However, MLS has a long history of looking the other way on reckless (or just plain clumsy) challenges. I agree that intent shouldn’t be the deciding factor on punishment.

    But it isn’t just “the stars” that need protection IMO. Arguably, the highest paid players require less protection, as their financial futures are much more sound (guaranteed longer term contracts, in some cases for very good money). It would not trouble me if MLS decided to adopt a no prisoners policy as regards reckless challenges… something along the lines of “actual injury being irrelevant”… if the match official (or review panel) deems a challenge to have been likely to cause injury, reckless, or just stupid, suspension is automatic.

    While MLS has always been a very physical league (as are most non-elite competitions), it simply doesn’t have enough skilled players to afford losing some on foolish challenges from players who know that holding their hands in the air will result in a free pass. Yes, sooner or later it will be Donovan or Marquez that is suspended for fouling a marginal player… that’s the price you pay for protecting the product as a whole. It’s hard to argue that a 19yr old with a bright future who makes $40k a year (or less) deserves less protection than a 36yr old with millions in the bank… but neither should the reverse be true.

    Time for MLS to get strict on fouls that injure or have a high likelihood of causing injury. More than any other league, MLS needs it’s most skilled players on pitch. It’s about the integrity of the game.

  3. Soccerlogical says:

    The Mullan tackle is a very good representation of the average MLS player who doesn’t have proper tackling technique coupled with a mediocre ability to read a situation and and make the “timely” decision on his action.

    Very dangerous for all players … not only the marquee.

  4. Boris says:

    I find it interesting that while everyone is trying to find excuses or blame Wenger for Arsenal’s defeat at Bolton, I have not seen a single person acknowledge the fact that Bolton have been a good team (One point behind the 7th spot with a game in hand) under the tutolage of Owen Coyle. The Spurs also went to Bolton and got beaten.

  5. Russell Berrisford says:

    Al- I’m pretty sure that I didn’t defend the Mullan tackle and agree with you that it was wreckless.

    John- Yes “clumsy” tackles are endemic in MLS.

    SL- Spot on. It is a lack of technique and reading of the game that seems so dangerous in MLS.

  6. WileyJ says:

    Mullens challenge was retaliation. Call it what it was. Watch the replay. He’s upset for a non-decision & heads studs up into Zakuani. Anything less than a 10 game suspension is silly.

  7. John Bladen says:

    Russell: MLS has just handed down a 10 game suspension to Mullan for the Zakuani tackle. Thoughts?

    Wondering if Mullan still feels “he would do the same thing again”?

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