D.C. United star Dwayne De Rosario can count himself lucky that the club's preseason match against the Philadelphia Union was not broadcast or even videotaped.
The MLS Disciplinary Committee on Friday morning handed down a two-game suspension and fine to De Rosario for "violent conduct that endangered the safety of his opponent, Philadelphia Union midfielder Danny Cruz" during a Disney Pro Soccer Classic match on February 23 in Orlando.
The match, the first of four on the final day of action at the Disney tournament, was not broadcast on WatchESPN, as the final two matches were, leaving the MLS Disciplinary Committee with no footage to work with.
"There was no video of the incident, but there was a belief that there was conclusive eyewitness testimony," MLS Executive Vice-President for Competition, Technical and Game Operations Nelson Rodriguez told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. "And that testimony stated that Mr. De Rosario was guilty of head-butting his opponent Danny Cruz."
Rodriguez said that the players involved and the referee were among those interviewed by the Disciplinary Committee, but that two independent observers associated with Walt Disney World, organizers of the tournament, also came forward and "were completely independent of any bias."
Had there been video, De Rosario might have received a lengthier ban. According to Rodriguez, the MLS Disciplinary Committee has typically sanctioned head butts with a two-game suspension on top of the automatic red-card suspension. Given it was a preseason match, the red card received by De Rosario does not result in a regular-season suspension.
"In recognition that without video it was a little more difficult to determine force involved in the incident, the decision was for two games as opposed to what typically could have been three — the red card plus two," Rodriguez said.
De Rosario will miss D.C.'s first two matches of the 2013 regular season, including their season opener against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday and their home opener against Real Salt Lake on March 9.
The incident will put MLS clubs on alert for future preseasons: The MLS Disciplinary Committee will act on exhibition matches if it is warranted, whether or not there is video available.
"It is important to note that this action was violent conduct," Rodriguez said. "And there is no place for violent conduct in any game at any time. That's non-soccer related behavior. And so whether that be striking an opponent, attempting to strike an opponent, spitting or head-butting, there is no room for that behavior in our league at any time."