Colorado Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan received his punishment Thursday for last week's crippling tackle that broke Seattle Sounders winger Steve Zakuani's leg: 10-game suspension and a $5,000 fine.
It's the longest suspension in MLS history, exceeding by one game the 2007 penalty to former Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark for kicking a fallen Carlos Ruiz, then with FC Dallas. Mullan will not, according to the Rapids, appeal the suspension. He would be eligible to return to the field June 26 at Columbus.
Mullan, who was described as too distraught to train this week with the Rapids, broke Zakuani's right tibia and fibula with a petulant tackle early in Friday's game in Commerce City, Colo. Zakuani, Seattle's most influential attacking player, underwent emergency surgery, was hospitalized for three and a half days and is expected to miss the remainder of the Major League Soccer season. Mullan was red-carded for the foul
MLS's disciplinary committee called Mullan's challenge "reckless, egregious, and showed utter disregard for the safety of his opponent."
Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer, in a statement, said: "In situations such as this, the game is robbed of its brilliance. Steve Zakuani is a young, talented and highly entertaining player. He will be missed, and we all wish him a full and speedy recovery. As a league, the Commissioner has stated his intention to be more protective of dynamic, attacking players. Hopefully this suspension is a step in the right direction. However, the harsh reality of this situation is that no length of suspension will bring back Steve to action any faster."
Colorado managing director Jeff Plush also weighed in with a statement:
"First and foremost, on behalf of our entire organization and our supporters, I want to wish the very best to Steve Zakuani and send him heartfelt wishes for a full and speedy recovery from this injury. Brian Mullan has offered his public apology to Steve for the injury he sustained. As a person with a kind heart and respect and feelings towards his fellow teammates and opponents, Brian is genuinely distraught that his challenge caused this injury.
"With respect to the decision by the Committee, we understand and accept their ruling that Brian’s tackle was ‘reckless’ and agree that further discipline was warranted above the automatic one match suspension that accompanies a red card.
"However, we strongly disagree that Brian’s tackle, although admittedly harsh by any account, should be punished more severely than premeditated acts in our League’s history.
"Brian’s challenge was ill-timed and the result was unfortunate, but in no way does this event properly define the long and outstanding career that Brian has had. Brian has a proven track record on the field as an intense and talented player, one who has won a championship with every club he has been with and a player who brings tremendous human qualities to the locker room and training field on a daily basis. He has been, and will continue to be a player who respects his teammates and competitors alike. One incident should not, and will not, define the exemplary career that Brian Mullan has enjoyed in Major League Soccer.
"Our organization has chosen the path of silence on this issue, both out of respect for the process and the people involved as well as to not promote public reaction. I am disappointed by the reaction of some segments of the soccer community that have attempted to portray Brian as anything other than a terrific person and competitor. The vitriol being displayed in social media, and the apparent sanctioning of it by those who could help in diffusing it, is counter-productive and only serves to undermine our League’s efforts to unify our soccer community.
"Brian has made the decision not to appeal the imposed sanctions, and we support him in that decision. Our organization enthusiastically stands by Brian Mullan and I look forward to having him once again help us compete for a championship upon his return.”