Sounders GM Adrian Hanauer and Colorado managing director Jeff Plush were heard from regarding the 10-game suspension to Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan for his reckless tackle that injured Sounders midfielder Steve Zakuani. (See posts below.)
However, the because the ruling from the league came down today before the Sounders concluded their training session at Qwest Field, we also were able to get reaction from some of the players and coach Sigi Schmid. The general reaction seemed in line with Hanauer’s: resignation that no punishment will bring Zakuani back to health any quicker.
I talked first to defender Tyson Wahl, who’s bump with Mullan seemed to anger Mullan moments before he piled into Zakuani. I asked Wahl if there had been any words or other incident with Mullan before that.
“I don’t remember the specific instance,” Wahl said. “I may have bodied him or shouldered him a little bit harder than normal. But I definitely didn’t make a dirty tackle. It’s not something that I like to think of a whole lot very often. I was right there. I had a clear view, and I don’t want to see it again. I think it was just normal physical play, but maybe it just ticked him off, unfortunately.”
On the suspension) Obviously the league stated early on through Commissioner Garber that they wanted to be strong in these areas and allow players the opportunity to play. I know nobody feels worse than Brian Mullan about this incident, because I know Brian as a person. It was an unfortunate situation in that regard, but I think the suspension is probably appropriate based upon what the league stated as their commitment at the beginning of the season.
On if the Sounders needed the ruling to move on) I’m not a big believer in that. I don’t believe we’re here for an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. That’s not our philosophy. I think everybody who’s been involved with this — whether it’s Steve Zakuani or Brian Mullan — have been severely affected. Obviously Steve is injured and can’t play and now Mullan is suspended and can’t play. But also emotionally as well for those two individuals and the teams involved it’s left an impression on everyone.
On whether a 10-game suspension might make all defenders more cautious) Obviously it’s going to send a message and I think everybody is going to be a little more cautious, which I think is the important thing. For me it’s always: Compete for the ball, be fair. We had an incident probably two weeks ago in practice where somebody went into a tackle in anger and we sort of talked about that today a little bit. I said, “Now you guys understand that that’s not the way to go.” I have a good friend of mine who I coached with on the U.S. national team who suffered a serious injury at the time as well, and the suspension for the player was like six months. That was in Germany back in the early ’70s, so things have changed since then. It’s a situation where I think everybody is going to be a little more aware, everybody’s going to be a little more cautious. I think the referees have to be a little more conscience. You can’t determine what’s in someone’s mind. But if you’ve played the game, you know when somebody’s anger and reacting out of anger, or if they’re challenging for a ball and they’re late or it’s mistimed. But there have been other tackles I’ve seen where people have come in from behind and scissored people and you could tell they were lining them up, and that sometimes doesn’t get punished as much as it should be. So, hopefully it will draw a little more attention to those types of situations where everybody will be a little more concerned to play hard, battle fair, and hopefully we can avoid injuries like that in the future; but that’s impossible.
On if Steve Zakuani will be in stadium on Saturday) I don’t know for sure. Right now it’s 50/50 and it’s maybe more towards him not being here because, again, we don’t want to do anything to slow down his healing process. As anybody knows, when you have an injury or something like this the first week to two weeks is most important. If you really do a good job in the first week to two weeks then you’ve laid a really good foundation for healing and you can move forward from there.
On the historic suspension) It set a precedent. It’s pretty harsh, but it was a harsh tackle. So it’s one of those I’ll let them decide how to do that, and hopefully there isn’t anything like that for the rest of the entire year.