MLS Hedges, Suspends Henry One Game for Kamara Incident

The MLS Disciplinary Committee announced today that it has suspended Red Bulls striker Thierry Henry for one game and fined the French Designated Player an undisclosed amount “for violent conduct which endangered the safety of Kansas City forward Kei Kamara” during stoppage time of Wednesday night’s pivotal Eastern Conference game at Red Bull Arena.

This action is dubious for (at least) two reasons:

1. If they’ve decided that Henry intentionally head-butted Kamara—which they must have, or else why suspend him—then doesn’t a head butt warrant more than a one-game suspension?

2. The Red Bulls’ next match is on Saturday night at New England, where the field is artificial turf. Henry is well-known for not liking to play on artificial surfaces—he’s done it just once in his MLS career so far—and chances are he would have skipped Saturday’s game anyway.

Did MLS just compromise with one of its biggest superstars? How much longer would the suspension have been if Kamara had been cut by Henry’s fake accident?

The league hasn’t posted video of the incident to YouTube, but you can see a clip of it here.

Several things to note:

• The first thing Henry does after collapsing melodramatically is to grab the back of his head. Pretty flimsy: the video clearly shows that he hit Kamara with his forehead.

• Check the reverse-angle replay of the incident. Why is Henry even starting his run at this point? Teammate Sebastien Le Toux is going to take a corner kick, but he’s not ready to do it yet—he’s not even close.

• There have to be better, and more subtle, ways to get a dig in at an opponent, right? This is just weird, and, his ludicrous pantomime aside, Henry did run the risk of hurting himself as much as Kamara.

Sigh. He’s a great player, but an odd duck.

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Brek Shea Is Having A Rough Week

Maybe the lanky Dallas winger had already been informed of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s plans not to include him in this week’s national-team camp when he lashed out in frustration like this last Saturday:

But either way, the outburst (good stiff-upper-lip reaction from the linesman, btw) earned Shea a three-game suspension from Major League Soccer. Incredibly, he wasn’t even carded for it during the game (way to get your linesman’s back, ref), but the league’s new Disciplinary Committee stepped in on Thursday and gave Shea a three-game break.

And you know what? Maybe that’s just what he needs. He’s been run ragged after more than a year of FC Dallas games, US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League matches, national-team appearances and commitments to the U.S. U-23s. It seems like he still hasn’t recovered, as his MLS form has dipped noticeably this season.

Some time off may be just what the doctor ordered, and hopefully will return Shea to the form he found last season, when he did things like this:

Rafa Marquez: Still a D***

The latest confirmation comes from this past Saturday’s 2-2 draw with San Jose at Red Bull Arena.

The former Barcelona defender broke the collarbone of Earthquakes winger Shea Salinas with this maneuver—though it’s unclear if the NFL tackle or the parting kick did the damage. You be the judge:

U.S. fans first discovered Marquez’s d***ishness in 2002, when he head-butted and kicked Cobi Jones in the famous dos a cero game that eliminated El Tri from the World Cup in Germany.

They saw another example in 2009, when he got a straight red card for going studs-up into Tim Howard’s knee during a World Cup qualifier (another 2-0 win for the U.S.).

Last season in New York, Red Bulls fans witnessed multiple examples, none more stark than his public criticism of his teammates after a September loss to Real Salt Lake, and his incitement of a postgame melée with Los Angeles after a playoff loss to the Galaxy in September.

After that last misstep, it looked like the Mexico captain was on his way out of New York. He’d thrown his teammates under the boss, behaved like a surly five-year-old, and worst of all, underperformed on the field.

But no: he said he’d be back, and promised to be on his best behavior, in all phases.

Now, just six games into the new season, that plan is off the rails. Major League Soccer’s new Disciplinary Committee is going to have a look at that play, and will almost certainly hand down a suspension, probably for multiple games.

How will Marquez react, and how will this impact the Red Bulls’ season, recently on the uptick?

The answers suggested by recent history are not promising.

Hans Backe Tells Marquez: “Take It Easy, Champ”

In a scene we picture going a little like this…

…New York Red Bulls coach Hans Backe suspended designated player Rafa Marquez for Saturday’s crucial game against Portland.

The move comes in the wake of the player’s locker-room-poisoning comments after Wednesday’s embarrassing 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.

We like it, and not only from a team-morale perspective. Clearly, there had to be some response to the unprofessional and uncalled-for comments, and Marquez, as we’ve said before, has not played close to his best this season, so it’s debatable whether he’ll be missed on Saturday, especially given his current mindset.

Further, the Red Bulls’ victory over Dallas last week—their first win since July 6—came without the Mexican designated player in the lineup and featured a staunch defensive effort by the backline that Marquez infamously claimed was not up to his level.

So the plot thickens for what was already a slam-bang slate of weekend MLS action: In addition to the As the World Turns doings in New York, there’s a battle for first in the East tonight between Sporting Kansas City and Philadelphia, a Texas derby match on Saturday, and a Cascadia Cup game that will also be the last match at Empire Field before the Whitecaps move to the revamped BC Place.

Other key games include a showdown between conference leaders Columbus and Los Angeles, and a matchup between red-hot Real Salt Lake and playoff hopefuls DC United.

Come Sunday evening, the playoff picture should be in much sharper focus—along with the futures of more than one Red Bull New York employee.

MLS Roundup: Pavel Pardo, New Argentine DP, and Saborio’s Historic Suspension

While we wait for Jurgen Klinsmann to announce his first selection of players as coach of the U.S.—which is scheduled to happen tomorrow—let’s catch up on MLS news, of the off-field variety (for our wrap-up of the most recent on-field action, see here).

The biggest development of the past week was Chicago’s signing of Mexican international Pavel Pardo, a long-rumored acquisition that finally came to pass on July 26.

The deal is only for the remainder of the 2011 season, and Pardo was not signed as a Designated Player. Those two elements suggest that the Fire wants to see how much the 35-year-old midfielder has left in the tank; it could be a three-month audition for DP satus next season.

Pardo, who retired from international play in 2009, suited up for the Mexican national team 148 times, and appeared in the 1998 and 2006 World Cups.

•••

In New England, the Revolution announced the signing of the first Designated Player in club history, a 22-year-old Argentine striker named Milton Caraglio.

Caraglio comes to Foxborough from Argentine club Rosario Central, where he scored 11 goals in 49 appearances in Argentina’s top flight. He sat out most of the 2009-10 season with a knee injury.

Caraglio has been called to the Argentina national team once, in 2009, but could not participate because of the knee injury.

•••

This past Friday, the MLS Disciplinary Committee made league history by not only fining Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio $1,000 for his apparent dive against San Jose last week but also suspending the Costa Rican for one game. It’s the first such suspension in 16 years of MLS action.

Here’s the play:

The punishment comes roughly one month after D.C. United forward Charlie Davies was fined, but not suspended, for an even more egregious dive against … Real Salt Lake, of all teams.

RSL fans may gripe that Davies wasn’t suspended, but we like this move, and would wager that it proves effective in stopping future cases of simulation. Saborio sat out RSL’s game this past weekend against Columbus. His absence, along with that of Jamison Olave, who was hurt in the All-Star Game, no doubt contributed to the Crew’s 2-0 victory, a rare home loss for RSL.

•••

From Philadelphia comes word that striker Carlos Ruiz, the Union’s leading scorer with six goals, is set to leave the team and join Veracruz of the Mexican second division.

The reason he’s leaving is as strange as the move is sudden: According to coach Peter Nowak, it’s because of the Union’s fans’ attitude toward Ruiz. Really.

Here’s what the coach said when the transfer was announced:

“There were a lot of fans, even in the stands here, that have a pre-bias towards Carlos, and made some bad comments about him being a diver, or this, or that, not working hard enough, and all these little things. It was getting tiring to all of us.”

Of course, Ruiz is a diver, and a bit of a dirty player as well, but he’s also the team’s leading scorer and probably a guy you’d want on your side for the homestretch of the season.

So what we have here, apparently, is another chapter in the long, sad legacy of Philadelphia fans misbehaving, losing sight of their own self-interests, alienating players, and ruining things for their fellow fans.

On the bright side, if the Union’s fans are acting like their Phillies, Eagles, and Flyers brethren, maybe it’s a sign that Philadelphia has truly embraced MLS.

Five Members of Mexico’s Gold Cup Side Suspended After Testing Positive for Clenbuterol

Five players on Mexico’s national team, including starting goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa (above), have tested positive for the banned substance Clenbuterol and have been removed from the Gold Cup.

Mexican soccer federation officials said that Ochoa, Christian Bermudez, Edgar Duenas, Antonio  (Sinha) Nelson, and Francisco Rodriguez were the players whose tests came back positive, and that all were suspended immediately pending an investigation.

The players could face bans of a year or more, but officials suggested that the players had eaten chicken or beef tainted with the substance, and said they would investigate the matter with the food suppliers.

The five have not been suspended from the Gold Cup, just by their team, so they could return if cleared in time.

For more, see here, here, and here.