Edit: I notice that a ton of Google Searches for "Brian Mullan Suspension" or the like are directing to this article. No punishment has yet been announced by Major League Soccer.
Last night was a very tough one for fans of the Seattle Sounders and Colorado Rapids. Emotions were flying high on all sides after a foolish and reckless tackle by Brian Mullan on Seattle Sounders forward/midfielder Steve Zakuani broke two bones in Zakuani's leg and have had some people going as far as to say that Steve's career might have been ended by the tackle. There's no mystery on how the play unfolded; Brian was ghost-fouled seconds before setting up the tackle, got angry at the non-call and decided to take out his aggression on whoever had the ball at the time, the unfortunate victim being Zakuani. The tackle was stupid, the tackle was far too hard and the tackle caused about as much damage as a tackle like that could possibly have caused, unfortunately for everyone.
After the game, as you can imagine, there was a bit of... dissent among people on twitter and facebook discussing the tackle. As I said, emotions were high and logic might have flown out the window a bit. My personal stance on the matter might still be a bit unclear, since I seem to be getting pegged as a staunch Rapids defender, trying to say that Mullan is the true victim in the situation. That's pretty much just straight up ludicrous. I simply think that Sounders fans - a fanbase that is kind of known for overreacting - are overreacting just a bit here.I think that Brian Mullan should be fined and suspended to the fullest extent of what MLS can possibly get away with here. A fine of a couple hundred thousand dollars as well as an eight game suspension - saying that 'he shouldn't play until Zakuani can play!' is just an angry Sounders fan reaction that simply won't come to pass - would not surprise me. MLS hasn't ever given out more than a ten game suspension before if I heard correctly and I doubt they ever will again. This might just overthrow that particular rule simply because they gave out nine games to Ricardo Clark in 2007 for kicking a player lying on the pitch after persistent fouling for the rest of the season, so this might be seen as worse by MLS in terms of games deserved.
My only concern is the sudden and inexplicable title of dirty player that has been slapped onto Mullan, a title that he had never really held until after last night's hit. There are certainly some dirty players on the Colorado Rapids. Wells Thompson tackles a little to fiercely and often for his own good and we all know about Conor Casey leading the league in fouls last year because of his elbow-y style of attack in the box. I've seen quite a bit of Brian Mullan in the years that I've been watching MLS and he had never struck me as a particularly bad guy in terms of overly hard defending. Solid at defense yes, but rarely overly dirty in it.
I don't buy Taylor Twellman's story either, no matter how good a source you would think he might be. I assume we all saw his tweets last night where he revealed that several apparently anonymous players from around the league saying that he really is quite a dirty player, only missing his two legged malicious tackles more than making them. I guess I'm just to skeptical to believe that none of these players stepped forward themselves, only letting Twellman know via text message. Plus, in a 10 year career of being a supposed head-hunter like that, I'm pretty sure that he would have received several more red cards - his last one came in 2006 - and probably caused a few more injuries in his career. Honestly with all the people - including Sigi Schmid! - who said that they honestly couldn't believe that there was malicious intent behind the tackle, stupid and reckless as it may have been, I would err on the side of caution before I call him a horrible dirty piece of crap as he's gotten.
So is Brian Mullan deserving of possibly the largest suspension and fine in MLS history after that horribly idiotic move he made yesterday against Seattle? Yes. Does he need to come out and say that he made a mistake in a forum other than spur of the moment post-game comments to appease a lot of people who feel that his apology post game wasn't sincere enough? Yes. He should probably say that he misspoke in that post-game interview as well, since there were about several thousand ways that he could have stated that "I'd do it again" sentence that wouldn't have made him seem quite as much of a bastard for making that tackle happen. He is no MLS superstar and he needs to make as much of a show of apologizing as possible if he doesn't want to get stabbed when the Rapids play in Seattle in July, assuming his suspension doesn't go until then. Anything else just sounds like he might be making excuses. But is Brian Mullan a heartless, career long headhunter who finally struck with the potential he has always had against Zakuani last night? No. And that's the only thing that can really be argued here, all things considered.
This should be my final word on Brian until the suspension is handed out. At that point hopefully Steve will be getting better - the surgery to fix his tibia and fibula last night was successful last night, thankfully - and Brian will be handed a large fine and suspension. At that point, we can start trying to put this whole terrible situation behind us as the league hopefully takes this seriously and begins sending players messages that this league should not be a league of tackles and dives. I think we can all agree that this should at the very least be used as an opportunity to advance our league in terms of quality, sad as the circumstances for it may have been.