As you all know by now, FCD's early-season MVP forward Blas Perez has been suspended for tonight's game because of an elbow on Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey in the first half of Saturday's loss. It's certainly a controversial decision and I've got a few thoughts on it to share.
First off, a couple excerpts from the MLS Extra Time Radio Interview with Nelson Rodriguez, MLS VP of competition and game operations.
"It's hard to ignore when you have the level of injury, like was suffered by Shea Salinas, that it wouldn't play a part in the decision."
"You try to look at precedent, is there a history with this player that needs to be taken into consideration. All of those factors are put on the table and vigorously debated by the group."
When looking at the incident with Blas on Saturday, I first think to myself, was it reckless? I would call it minorly reckless. Perez was looking at the ball the whole time, but did get his elbow up a bit. Does Perez have a history of reckless play? Blas gained his first yellow card in the league late in the Vancouver match on Saturday night and had not picked up one yellow card before that despite being a forward who hustles to every ball and is a player who certainly doesn't shy away from physicality.
Was there any sort of lead up to the foul that would indicate that it was retaliatory in any way? You certainly can't know for sure as we're not privy to what is said on the field and things can certainly happen off the screen, but from all indications there was nothing leading up to this play that would have caused it and there was nothing that happened after the play that it sparked.
Is there an injury or concussion that game from the foul? Jordan Harvey played 90 minutes on Saturday night and was not listed on the official MLS injury report that was released on Tuesday night.
I feel like those are the logical questions you have to ask whenever analyzing the suspension and the only mark on Perez that I can find is that it was slightly reckless. Now lets look at the precedent MLS has set for what is a one game retroactive suspension.
First off, Shalrie Joseph's tackle on Ricardo Villar
A very late tackle, very reckless and Villar still has not returned to play and will not play tomorrow, his third game in a row to miss from the tackle. Joseph was given a one game suspension.
Second, Brandon McDonald's challenge on Blas Perez that likely should have been a red card.
An awful challenge on a standing leg that could have easily broken if things had gone just a bit differently. The exact kind of tackle that MLS is trying to stamp out of the game. A 1 game suspension was given.
Now looking at elbows and the first one is Jair Benitez.
You'll get no argument from me at all for this elbow. Jair Benitez is a player with a definite history in the league, he is battling with a defender, the elbow was retaliatory and clearly intentional. If it had made better contact, it could have done some serious damage. That elbow was deemed to be the same severity as Perez's.
Now another elbow by Atiba Harris in the Vancouver vs Philadelphia game.
I'm a big fan of Atiba Harris, but he is a player with a history(37 yellow cards in his first 5 seasons!) of rash challenges whether they were intentional or not. On that play, Harris makes a half-hearted effort to get to the clearance, unlike Perez who makes solid contact with the ball, and elbows the player in the back of the head. Again, deemed the same punishment as Perez's elbow.
I am trying to look at this from a 100% objective view, and I do not see consistency with these decisions. If the precedent is that unintentional elbows get 1 game suspensions, then the Benitez suspension, for what was an intentional elbow, is not consistent. It seems like a dangerous precedent to set that a reckless, two footed tackle at full speed from behind, or an extremely late challenge in which the fouled player will likely miss at least 3-4 games is deemed the same as an inadvertent elbow in which no player on the opposing team protested the foul and the player suffered no further harm.
The other side to things is when you suspend a player as important to his team's success as Perez, just 24 hours before a crucial conference match. While Rodriguez said in his interview that the committee doesn't take the prestige of the player or anything else like that into consideration, surely some common sense has to be taken into account as Dallas is left with 0 training sessions to find out how to replace arguably the most important piece on the field for their most important game, to date, of the season.
Everyone has their own opinion and I'm just the one with the bully pulpit to have mine heard a little louder, but I have laid out all the facts and I do not see consistency in the decisions.