The Colorado Rapids will not appeal Thursday’s ruling that midfielder Brian Mullan will be suspended for nine additional games and fined $5,000 for his reckless tackle on Seattle winger Steve Zakuani last week, even as the club criticized the severity of the punishment.
In an official statement, Rapids managing director Jeff Plush said the club will support Mullan’s decision not to appeal the sanction and, even though the club accepted the MLS Disciplinary Committee’s decision, they could not agree with the harshness of the ruling.
“With respect to the decision by the Committee, we understand and accept their ruling that Brian’s tackle was ‘reckless’ and agree that further discipline was warranted above the automatic one match suspension that accompanies a red card.
“However, we strongly disagree that Brian’s tackle, although admittedly harsh by any account, should be punished more severely than premeditated acts in our league’s history.”
Mullan was sent off in the third minute of a 1-0 loss against the Seattle Sounders last Friday after his sliding challenge resulted in Zakuani suffering a broken tibia and fibula in his right leg.
The resulting suspension is the largest handed out by the league since former Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark was suspended a total of nine games and fined $10,000 after he kicked former FC Dallas and current Philadelphia Union striker Carlos Ruiz during a match in 2007.
Rapids head coach Gary Smith declined to comment on the ruling other than to say that the team was in good spirits and looking forward to their weekend match at home against the Chicago Fire.
“Everyone feels for Brian as well as Steve, of course,” Smith told MLSsoccer.com. “The players will be trying to set the record straight on the field this weekend and then we can turn our attention to supporting Brian in whatever way we can.”
On Wednesday, Mullan released a formal apology through sports management firm James Grant Sports Ltd.
"It is with regret that my tackle resulted in the injury of Steve and I am deeply sorry to Steve and all those impacted by his injury," said Mullan.
The veteran was distraught over the incident, even seeking counseling. Smith had said that Mullan, who was trying to come to terms with his actions, had yet to train and probably wouldn’t for a good while.
Before the ruling, team captain Pablo Mastroeni said that the incident was far bigger than soccer, not least because it was affecting individual careers.
“Brian is feeling the pain,” Mastroeni said after training Tuesday. “He is the utmost professional. It is ironic that we are supporting Brian through this just as we obviously support Steve. There are life implications on both sides of the line.”
Mullan will not be available again for the Rapids until June 26, when they face Columbus Crew.
“Brian’s challenge was ill-timed and the result was unfortunate, but in no way does this event properly define the long and outstanding career that Brian has had,” Plush said. “He has been, and will continue to be, a player who respects his teammates and competitors alike.
“One incident should not, and will not, define the exemplary career that Brian Mullan has enjoyed in Major League Soccer.
“Our organization enthusiastically stands by Brian Mullan and I look forward to having him once again help us compete for a championship upon his return.”