Update: MLS has finally released a Disciplinary Committee note for this week. A Crew player and Wilmer Cabrera were the only people punished, no mention of Gordon.
I hate MLS conspiracy theories. There are a lot of people out there who seem to think that MLS hates their particular team, or tries their hardest to hand trophies to the Galaxy, Sounders and Red Bulls, or some other such schlock.
I don't like that sort of talk, because it's almost never true, at least to the extent that some people try to make it. But you know what? Screw it, I'm going to jump straight into the wagon myself. I'm betting you know exactly where I'm going with this, too. MLS absolutely doesn't care that the San Jose Earthquakes play some of the most horrific soccer in the league, and it's completely undermining their supposed newfound interest in preventing injuries, specifically to the head. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are encouraging it.
We've seen the Quakes get away with murder (and they'd probably try actual murder if they thought they could get away with it) before on the field, and Purple Rox showed in his piece today that the Quakes are consistently in the Top 2 of MLS in terms of fouls and cards against. It came to a head (hurf durf) last Saturday, when Alan Gordon slammed Shane O'Neill in the face with his elbow, away from the ball. It was a clear foul that went uncalled. We can excuse the referee; plays are missed by refs all the time and that's a simple fact of the game. Hell, I didn't even see it at first glance while watching the MLS Live stream. The Disciplinary Committee saw exactly what the rest of us saw here, though.
That's stonewall. It's dangerous, it's to the head, it's off the ball, it's by the man who has committed more fouls than any other player in MLS over the past four seasons, and it should have been a red card at the time. That's the sort of thing that MLS has sworn up and down that they are for preventing. And the MLS Disciplinary Committee hasn't said a word about it.
And this is not a Disciplinary Committee known for letting things go. They're a group that have suspended stars like Clint Dempsey for simple 'low blows'. There are often tackles that most people didn't even consider reckless that get a game or two in the weekly MDC round-up. They're the folks who took a very bad tackle and made it into the biggest suspension in MLS history because they said the tackle was performed 'in anger', for crying out loud.
Despite all of that though, the Quakes always seem to escape their watchful eyes. Recall last year, when Mark Watson kicked a ball at a Rapids player from the touchline, yet it was Oscar Pareja who was suspended after he left his technical area to take Watson to task over it. It took something like this to get Steven Lenhart suspended last season, a boot dragged across an opponents face followed by Lenhart flipping around to then fall over him. But an elbow to the face that got no whistle, that resulted in no blood, and that we were lucky to be able to look back at without a horrible injury, that elicits only a look the other way. And they can get away with it, because they can feign ignorance. They can merely call it a 'collision', or point to Alan Gordon half-heartedly helping Shane off the ground afterwards, and end the matter there. Taylor Twellman, who we know despises plays like that for all sorts of reasons, wasn't buying it. Neither were we.
But why is it that the Quakes escape this scrutiny? It's simple: MLS encourages it.
It's undeniable that MLS loves the San Jose Earthquakes, because they provide the league with their favorite thing: storylines. MLS was absolutely in love with 'goonie time' and the Bash Brothers that kept it going back in 2012, and Mark Watson only kept the mythos alive with a few more late wins and a mad rush towards a playoff spot in 2013. If Gordon is suspended, if Lenhart is suspended, you don't have the goonies. An elbow here and a shoulder there can be overlooked if it keeps the ink flowing and the views coming. Let's take a look at their preview from their Starting XI post this week:
V. GOONIES GO FOR IT: Let’s be honest: This year’s San Jose Earthquakes don’t belong in last place. For one thing, they’ve played fewer games than all but one other club. For another, they’ve got talent.
There was, and still is, I think, a sense that 2012 wasn't a fluke, but their down year of 2013 was. Anyone who looked at the numbers and saw them play knows that's not true, and that 2012 was always unsustainable stuff. They're a mediocre team who pulled a miraculous season out of thin air, but every goonie-style win makes sure that there are still believers. MLS really, really want to be believers.
If you didn't already have a reason to root for the Quakes to go winless this season, there's one. Maybe if the idiotic myth of 'goonie time' finally says die, MLS will take the Quakes to task for playing the only game they seem to know how to play. I suppose that there's always a chance the MDC comes in very late into the game and announces something, but we're already gearing up for tomorrow's matches. It doesn't seem likely that a surprise announcement comes now, and it would seem reactionary if they did.
Alan Gordon's elbow shouldn't have been anything ridiculous like a five or six game suspension, but not doing a thing about it sends a pretty clear message. That message is not a good one. Watch your heads, players.