I would like to begin by saying that, as will become obvious, I have never been a fan of Rafa Marquez. Quite frankly, I couldn't possibly care less about him. Being able to care less would imply that I cared at all.
The thing is, I care about MLS. I want it to continue to grow in size (by one team) and in stature around the world. Any and all threats to that continued growth need to be eliminated.
In my not so humble opinion, Marquez is just such a threat. The three-game suspension (and undisclosed fine) issued by MLS on Thursday is Marquez's second in less than a year. The incident in question stemmed from last Saturday's (4/14) match against the San Jose Earthquakes. On a corner kick in the 42nd minute,Marquez tackled San Jose's Shea Salinas from behind. Marquez also kicked Salinas, breaking his collarbone.
He was also suspended three games for throwing a ball at LA Galaxy midfielder Landon Donovan during last year's MLS Cup playoffs.
To me, this suspension constitutes a slap on the wrist for Marquez and a step backward for the league. For evidence of why I think that, I want to take you back to September 30, 2007.
On that early fall day, FC Dallas was hosting the Houston Dynamo at Pizza Hut Park. In the 89th minute, Houston's Ricardo Clark kicked Carlos Ruiz while Ruiz was laying on the ground. Ruiz had kneed Clark in the back and landed on top of him on the previous play.
Both Ruiz and Clark were sent off for their fouls. Ruiz missed the next two games, one for the red card and one for yellow-card accumulation.
In the statement released announcing the suspension four days later, MLS Commissioner Don Garber said, "I have decided that it is necessary to take firm action to reflect the fact that Ricardo Clark's violent kick to Carlos Ruiz in last weekend's game against FC Dallas, while out of character, is unacceptable behavior from an MLS player. (emphasis mine)"
"In taking this action," Garber continued, "Major League Soccer is sending a signal that it will not accept reckless and dangerous behavior on its fields. If there is a repeat of this kind of behavior by any MLS player, even firmer sanctions can be expected in the future. (again, emphasis mine)"
The operative phrases from Garber's statement are in bold. Clark does not have a reputation for being a violent or dirty player. That is simply not the case with Marquez.
Garber was attempting to send a message to the players that that kind of behavior was not acceptable. He's right. It's not acceptable.
It's also not acceptable for the league to be more lenient on players because they're getting Designated Player salaries, especially one with Marquez's history.
Clark was already facing a one-game suspension and a $250 fine for getting sent off. Garber increased that by eight games and $9,750, even though Ruiz wasn't seriously injured.
What does it say about the league when Marquez was only suspended three games and Salinas will miss up to two months following surgery to repair a broken collarbone? In my opinion, it's nothing good.