SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake manager Jason Kreis had seen it coming for some time.
Marcos Mondaini’s leg-breaking tackle on RSL playmaker Javier Morales, which was punished with an additional three-game suspension and a fine on Thursday, was just another in a steady stream of fouls committed by MLS teams with the purpose of slowing down the skillful Argentine.
“I know there’s been three or four matches [this year] where I’ve gone to the fourth official and said, ‘I hope you guys are keeping track of how many times Javier Morales has been fouled,’” Kreis said.
Morales suffered the most fouls per games last year, falling victim to nearly three fouls per match on average — and many more than that in certain matches (FC Dallas midfielder David Ferreira received the most fouls over the duration of the season, though he played more games than Morales). Kreis feels that the rule of “persistent infringement” should be the solution, not only resulting in a yellow card for a player who commits several fouls, but also for the team that fouls the same player several times.
“The person who goes over the limit of persistency is supposed to get a yellow card for that,” Kreis said.
Video of those same fouls on Morales were used during preseason informational sessions held by MLS to instruct players and coaches on the nature of dangerous tackles and persistent fouls.
“It’s no coincidence that he’s the guy in the video, and now he’s the guy with the broken leg,” RSL midfielder Will Johnson said. “They were going to crack down on fouls on specific players because teams are targeting specific players and obviously Javier is one of those guys who has been targeted.
“He’s a guy that everybody circles before they play us, and now they don’t have to anymore. He wasn’t quite protected enough.”
While Johnson feels that the suspensions issued for similar tackles have not been “as consistent as a lot of people hoped it would be” — Brian Mullan received a nine game suspension for his leg-breaking challenge on Seattle’s Steve Zakuani — Kreis is accepting of the MLS Disciplinary Committee’s final decision.
“The league has looked at it, and they’ve done a thorough job of contemplating it,” Kreis said. “They’ve made a ruling and I don’t think it behooves anybody to comment after the fact.”
The RSL manager believes that the ultimate solution to the string of injuries to talented players needs to come from their own colleagues.
“I think the players have to treat each other and treat the game and treat the sport with a touch more respect,” Kreis said. “And recognize that it is creative attacking soccer that gets people to buy tickets. And that’s a difficult message to sell, especially when you’re a defender.”