OBETZ, Ohio – It took Jairo Arrieta four games to regain his starting spot following his return from the Costa Rican national team.
Now, the Columbus Crew forward will likely have to repeat the feat after being handed a two-game suspension and fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee on Friday afternoon for endangering the safety of Drew Moor in last Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids. He was informed of the ruling 48 hours earlier.
"It's hard for me to understand that kind of decision has been made in this league but I have to accept the facts," Arrieta told MLSsoccer.com through a team translator on Friday.
His ban is the result of an arm to Moor's face as the two went up for a flighted ball and Arrieta tried to shield the defender. The 29-year-old forward was given a yellow card at the time and will now miss Saturday's match at Toronto FC (5 pm ET, MLS Live) and the May 26 game at New York, pending review of his appeal to have the suspension reduced to one game.
"I didn't have any intention to hit the guy because I lost sight of him and the ball," Arrieta said. "I never thought about hitting the player. I'm not that kind of player. It was part of the play. Even the defender understood. I apologized to him and he understood there wasn't any intention to harm anybody."
Crew coach Robert Warzycha was understanding both of Arrieta's explanation and the Committee's decision.
"I think he felt the defender was going to jump with him, which he didn't," Warzycha told MLSsoccer.com. "That would have been completely different because that way he would have pushed him. He didn't jump so the arm went on his face. You have to be more careful."
Arrieta has just one goal this season – at Vancouver on March 9 – along with two assists in nine games (six starts), after tying for the team lead with nine goals in 18 matches last season after joining Columbus in July.
When Arrieta went away for national team duty in late March starting midfielder Dominic Oduro moved into the vacated spot and scored two goals in four games before Arrieta returned to the first XI vs. D.C. United on April 27.
If Oduro does play up top now, Warzycha won't have Ben Speas to take over on the flank again, as the rookie is set to miss the Toronto match with a hamstring injury. That could leave an opening for third-year midfielder Justin Meram.
Meanwhile, a team spokesman said Arrieta is expected to play in the Reserve League match vs. TFC on Saturday.
"I was getting into the game shape and game quality I was looking for," Arrieta said. "Now to be out two [first-team] games is unfortunate. There is nothing I can do. Hopefully in the future it won't happen again."