Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up
NBCSports Header Logo

MLS men aren’t getting the message; more reds in Round 7

Philadelphia Union v Chivas USA

CARSON, CA - APRIL 21: Referee Juan Guzman gets between Gabriel Farfan #15 of Philadelphia Union and Miller Bolanos #17 of Chivas USA after a play in the second half during the MLS match at The Home Depot Center on April 21, 2012 in Carson, California. The Union defeated Chivas USA 1-0. (Photo by Victor Decolongon/Getty Images)

Getty Images

When I coach youth soccer it’s all about two things: instruction on skills and hoping to create good young people in the bigger picture.

To the latter end, one lesson I like to teach is that “you play the game you’re in.”

In other words, it’s not always about quality fields, benevolent opposition, crisp weather and impeccable performance by the man in the middle. The game is rarely ideal.

It’s like life that way. You don’t fret about how you wish things could be; you deal with matters best you can – and you play the game you’re in.

Looks like a lot of soccer players missed that lesson. Or lost it along the way. Because at this point, every Major League Soccer man who launches into a two-footed tackle or aggressively attempts to win a ball from a poor position (i.e., from behind) is not paying attention. He’s not “playing the game he’s in.”

I’ve repeated over and over now that Major League Soccer is doing the right thing through its hardline disciplinary committee track, creating a better risk-reward equation for those who beat, batter and jeopardize fellow player safety. Before, players were far more likely to get away with reckless endangerment; now they aren’t.

You may argue. Coaches, officials and players may argue – all within their right. But divergent opinions won’t matter when they run afoul of the current initiative. It’s time to adjust or accept the consequences.

Look at just one example over the weekend. I know things move fast, but what Philadelphia’s Gabriel Farfan could possibly have been thinking here, I can only imagine:



I had to pick one example, and chose this one because you’ll hear more about it later this week. Count on it. Even if the league doesn’t whack Farfan with extras games for his dangerously imprudent two-footed lunge on Chivas USA’s James Riley, we’ll probably hear about coach Peter Nowak’s poor choice to enter the field of play and exacerbate the situation.

The point is, Farfan doesn’t live in a vacuum. Nor does RSL’s Fabian Espindola, who did about the same to San Jose’s Sam Cronin. Marvin Chavez last week? Same deal.

These guys know what’s coming at this point. And they had better not act surprised when the hammer comes down.

This is the game they are in now. And they express an opposition viewpoint at their own peril, and at the team’s expense of playing a man down.