MLS disciplines Harris, McDonald, Benitez, Cruz for Week 4 actions

Harris (Getty Images)

The MLS disciplinary committee is bringing down the hammer

After reviewing the past weekend's matches, the league's disciplinary arm has suspended FC Dallas' Jair Benitez, D.C. United's Brandon McDonald and Vancouver Whitecaps' Atiba Harris a game apiece and fined them for violent conduct, and fined D.C. United's Danny Cruz for embellishment during their respective Week 4 matches.

Benitez threw a flailing elbow at Cruz while the two were fighting for possession in the corner late in D.C. United's 4-1 victory over FC Dallas, and Benitez earned his suspension for the elbow, while Cruz was fined for exaggerating the incident. Earlier in that same game, McDonald came in on Blas Perez with a harsh tackle from behind that earned a yellow card but was deemed to have deserved further discipline.

Harris, meanwhile, delivered a flagrant elbow to Philadelphia Union defender Carlos Valdes' head as he was trying to pass the ball forward from his own end, with the Whitecaps' forward drawing a yellow card for the incident.

The punishments come a week after the league elected to suspend and fine Houston Dynamo midfielder Adam Moffat for a hard tackle and fine Seattle Sounders midfielder Alvaro Fernandez for simulation in their Week 3 matchup.

What do you think of all of the discipline? Was it all warranted? Do you like the steps MLS is taking to punish hard challenges and simulation?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Major League Soccer, MLS- D.C. United, MLS- FC Dallas, MLS- Vancouver Whitecaps. Bookmark the permalink.

72 Responses to MLS disciplines Harris, McDonald, Benitez, Cruz for Week 4 actions

  1. Joe Creighton says:

    I saw it done earlier…


  2. Surely says:

    Attiba Harris is still being paid to play soccer?

  3. Mflint_fact says:

    I like the simulation penalty- the last thing I want is a diving pandemic in MLS.

    I also like the physical style of play that sets MLS apart from other leagues. These kinds of fines and suspensions may limit that in the long run… but then again- it may serve to protect the ‘product on the field.’

  4. A wise man once says:

    I can’t be the only one that thinks the committee is going a bit overboard with all the suspensions.

  5. wilyboy says:

    When Danny Cruz gets fined for embellishment, you know this committee is full of #$%^.

  6. vik says:

    I like it. post-game fining/suspensions is the best way to fix discipline issues throughout the league. The hardest part is making sure it is done consistently, but this is also the most important part.

    Based on MLS’ track record, I expect punishments to taper off substantially after a few weeks of harsher “warning” punishments. This would be a mistake. Define fair punishments for offenses and apply them as consistently as possible throughout the entire season; oh, and publish/release the details of each decision.

  7. jonk says:

    I’m fine with upgrading the Harris and McDonald yellows to red. And I’m also fine with punishment to Benitez for the elbow and Cruz for acting like he got hit in the face — but those seem like they should have been yellows not suspensions.

  8. Embellishment? says:

    If embellishment is fined regularly now, that twerp Lenhart in San Jose better get what’s coming to him

  9. jonk says:

    Are you joking? If not, you should watch the video of that incident. It’s embarrassing.

  10. Ricky B. Stupid says:

    If MLS makes money, they should leap to sign Nigel De Jong as a designated player, and just watch the fines roll in.

  11. Matt S says:

    So is this how MLS plans to pull in money once they can’t hope for a big sugar daddy to come in with an expansion fee every year?

    I’ll admit I didn’t see any of the incidents but to have 4 in one week seems a little extreme. Hope this doesn’t get out of hand

  12. Ricky B. Stupid says:

    Sorry, that should read, “If MLS wants to make money”. Hence my name.

  13. I told you all that Lenhart would not get fined. That was all contact.

  14. bcoug says:

    Suspensions for violent play is welcome and overdue. Perhaps Rosales will be permitted to finish a game or two in a row now without some hack chopping him down.

  15. jonk says:

    I don’t think MLS makes money off these fines. From last week’s disciplinary notice: “Fines collected will be donated to the charitable partners of MLS W.O.R.K.S. and the MLS Players Union.”

  16. A wise man once says:

    Where is the video?

  17. George3000 says:

    I think the suspensions are a good thing. They won’t last forever – just until the referees and players get a better idea of how to dictate the physicality of the game. While brute strength has its place, I don’t think anyone wants to see that element completely overshadow the more skilled aspects of the sport.

    I think the simulation suspensions are in the same boat. If you’re trying to con the ref into handing out cards, you’re making it all that much more difficult for them to accurately judge what is crossing the line versus what should be acceptable play. Some might say it’s ‘part of the game,’ but then again so are leg-breaking tackles – the league has to do its part to curb both.

  18. George3000 says:

    I didn’t think Lenhart intentionally dove (at least no completely). It looked to me like the defender was actually trying to stick his leg out and trip up his front foot. The referee should have never given a penalty for it, though.

  19. JMR says:

    Is the league trying to tell their ref’s something here? If you look at the Jair Cruz play you can see Jair throwing elbows and Cruz pushing Jair down with his elbow for a while. The ref waited too long to do anything. He is the one that allowed the play to escalate. Why are we punishing these players?

    And suspensions after the fact? Shouldn’t Dallas protest the outcome of their match if MacDonald should have been given red? Should Philly protest their match?

    There has to be better ways to handle this.

  20. abc says:

    What about Daniel Hernandez from FC Dallas taking out De Rosario? Hernandez is one of the more reckless players in the league, DeRo is one of the more talented, the league should have sent a message that it will protect the latter from the former.

  21. yee says:

    wow, what idiotic suspensions

  22. Flacontex says:

    Don’t forget about DeRo’s shove on Hernandez. That wasn’t called either.

  23. jonk says:

    Word on the street is that MLS has a website. Also, this article didn’t spring from thin air. It has a source. It is in the article. You should click it.

  24. ac says:

    Love it….People need to remember that this isn’t a rugby league and much of the physicality has gotten out of hand at times. And the same for the diving which plain and simple is cheating….Guess Danny Alves won’t be coming to MLS later in his career. He’d never see the field from all the suspensions from diving.

  25. wilyboy says:

    Hears to that.

  26. wides says:

    Not in this country… we’ve grown a little wiser… the Canadians will learn.

  27. Rufus T. Firefly says:

    He got a yellow as well.

  28. Devin says:

    Technically, if you are describing diving within the scope of MLS it’s just an epidemic. If you refer to players diving all around the world, then you would be rightfully calling it a pandemic.

    Which it is.

  29. Eurosnob says:

    I agree that suspensions for bad tackles are a good thing, but the league does a terrible job in administering suspensions fairly. DCU’s McDonald’s tackle was bad and deserved a card, but it was not nearly as bad as the studs up tackle by Donovan on DCU’s Steven King (yellow card, no suspension) that could have easily broken King’s ankle or Beckham’s tackle on DCU’s Marcelo Saragosa (no card, no suspension) in the same game. I am not trying to single out LA, but it seems like the league is letting some of its money-making stars to get away with really bad tackles.

  30. klinny says:

    I guess the committee didn’t see a Dallas player (ihemelu?) swipe and take out Pontius. It was a very dirty play.

  31. Lenhart Sucks says:

    Lenhart was diving that entire match. Even if he is given the benefit of the doubt on the PK, which I am willing to give, he still couldn’t run 2 feet without flopping on the ground.

  32. solles says:

    MLS has no choice in the matter, and these fines/suspensions are warranted. No more David Ferriera/Javier Morales injuries, and embelleshment is a disgrace to the game in this country, I dont give a sh%t that it’s “done everywhere”. It doesnt have to be done here.

    Players and coaches will adapt if MLS is consistent, which is my only worry, that they wont be consistent.

  33. Eugene says:

    What about the Steve Lenhardt diving/embellishment that lead to the SJ goal vs. Seattle — is the league too embarrassed by its refs to fine, suspend and discipline him for that?

  34. Andrew says:

    Not perfect (as people point out with lack of consistency), but BETTER THAN NOTHING.

    Can’t get them all, but these punishments will change the culture over time. They’ve made it into a front-page issue, and coaches will hopefully start telling their players: “Don’t put yourself in the position to get these suspensions in the first place. Fight off challenges, don’t play violently, play like a professional.”

  35. David says:

    I find the diving in European leagues and international play extremely annoying. Post match punishment for simulation is a great idea – satisfies my sense of justice. I think I’m a typical american fan in that regard. The idea of an NFL or NBA player faking extreme pain, such as after a failed head butt from Pepe Reina, is almost laughable.

  36. Ben says:

    Perhaps the suits in discipline are being a little overzealous, but in the interest of cleaning up a league that has seen too much violence in the game. A response like this will never perfect though it be necessary.

  37. Andy says:

    The NFL had to change the rules on injury time outs at the end of games because offensive players were going down, “hurt”, to stop the clock.

    NBA players regularly embellish when they take a charge.

  38. elgringorico says:

    Don’t be a butthead

  39. Polo says:

    NFL players are flopping ALL THE TIME. They had to change the injury rules because teams were faking injuries to stop the clock or break up a no-huddle offense.

    Have you seen the video of LeBron James throwing himself to the court without being touched? Or Wade falling backwards grabbing his face without contact.

    The NBA actually had to institute a flop/dive rule because it has gotten so out of hand.

  40. A wise man once says:

    Maybe you should read the article. It pretty clearly says that Cruz was fined.

  41. thaDeuce says:

    I’m with u. the mcdonald suspension is baffling sense the ref got that one right, he was already punished appropriately. not a red card foul, no intent to hurt, just klutzy, though i think he got ball….


    def. overboard.

    it has its place, like if el salvador was an mls team and they had evidence of biting and punching in the face. the kind of subjective miniscule crap they are pulling here is outrageous, especially in light of a poster below’s points about l.a.

  42. thaDeuce says:

    except that it won’t prevent injuries like that. honest players will play more guarded, dishonest ones will miss more games, legs will still be broken as a result of the game. Maybe next year they will issue fines for heading the ball in an effort to protect players from memory loss and brain damage problems later in life.

  43. thaDeuce says:

    exactly, this is waaaay to subjective and poorly meted out. i would reserve for more extreme cases, this is bull toss of the dice who gets suspended and who doesn’t

  44. thaDeuce says:

    hardly necessary. how long has soccer been played? how many deaths or cripples resulted? just an example of more softening up and regulating of everything in society. i am also a hockey and mma fan, so calling the “violence” in soccer a problem is laughable. fights and violence of that sort hardly exist in soccer.

  45. thaDeuce says:

    define “too much violence”. this whole thing is “too subjective” for me. too much interference. i’ve always preferred the refs who let the players play though, so maybe i enjoy the game differently.

  46. Mario says:

    MLS will always be a physical league. You can be physical without resorting to violence.

    There needs to be more punishment for the hacks that injure players that elevate the quality of play and improve others.

    This is a step in the right direction.

  47. It's not stardom . . . says:

    Cruz, Fernandez, Harris, MacDonald, Benitez, Fernandez, Moffat

    Not Punished:
    Donovan, Lenhart, Beckham.

    What commonalities do you see?

  48. Scott A says:

    Wonderful start. (no sarcasm)

  49. pd says:

    That depends on the outcome you are looking for from it’s very existence. If you believe it to be overly harsh but that it has a chilling effect on diving and egregious violence and the injury that results from it, is that a “better” problem to have compared to an overly lenient committee that doesn’t really effect change? To the enforcers it sends the message that this is soccer, not hockey. To the divers it sends the message that in this league diving is cheating. If they judge a few situations too harshly while changing the overall culture, I think that is a livable condition, even if overly harsh at times.

  50. jb says:

    This is encouraging. MLS is now starting to blossom with some quality footballers. Without a doubt, the thing holding MLS back is the officiating and the blatant hacks that are able to get away with intentional fouls, often with the intent to injure. A good defender can body up a player without fouling. And injuries aside, if a defender impedes the progress of an attacker without playing the ball…it HAS to be a foul! This is really what the MLS officials haven’t seemed to figure out. If this can change, then you will start to see a more free-flowing and attractive game to watch. I dont doubt the posters who are claiming this retro-active punishments aren’t entirely consistant, but hey, ya gotta start somewhere.

  51. pd says:

    The idea of reprimanding refs is an interesting one, but I think there would be a need to handle that privately so as to prevent a situation where players start challenging recently reprimanded refs…

    As for appealing, I think there should be a mechanism for that in terms of appealing the ruling, but not the result. The purpose of this is to shape the style of play and let players know that they will be held to a high level of accountability, meaning if the ref is human and missies something that is discovered in hindsight, you will not get away with it as a player. Hopefully that will make everyone think twice in future opportunities.

    I have no doubt there will be times it’s used in an o verily harsh manner, but if it results in less diving, less hacking and fewer injuries from rash challenges then I think it’s worth trying.

  52. pd says:

    So you are saying that a committee charged with lowering injury and advantage through questionable play like diving and illegal tactic and harsh challenges is going to go on a crusade against potential concussions by stamping out the scourge of heading the ball? I need some help in seeing how you’re connecting those dots…

  53. pd says:

    You are an a$$.

  54. Brett says:

    Wait… How does Cruz fit in here? They suspend the guy who elbowed him, so they obviously think the elbow was enough to warrant a suspension, but Cruz also gets a fine for “embellishment”? How can they acknowledge that the elbow was worth a suspension while still punishing Cruz for falling down after being hit in the face? Can someone explain this to me?

  55. JMR says:

    Very good article regarding these post game disciplinary actions(from my point of view).

    link to

  56. Todd C says:

    Bravo MLS! Hopefully Europe takes notice and can apply the same by 2020. Doubt it, but diving ruins the beautiful game and stronger measures should be in place to fine/suspend for diving and embellishment! In the long run deterring players from this deplorable acting will only make the game better! Kudos MLS! Keep it up and great example to set for the rest of the planet.

    BTW, The USWNT and other women’s national teams rarely dive/embellish. The men should be ashamed.

  57. bcoug says:

    Look at the video on the MLS site … Cruz’s face grabbing following a blow to the mid-section is ridiculous.
    That being said, if the official blows his whistle after any of the first half-dozen or so fouls on this play neither player gets suspended.

  58. Adi from Oregon says:

    I totally agree with your comments and would add that the entire soccer world would benefit from post-game reviews and necessary punishments. I would even review and alter any obvious goals (award obvious goals & take away blatent off-side scores).

  59. US Soccer Fan says:

    He is a sad unsportsmanlike player with a terrible haircut and a bad attitude. He gets whats coming to him every time he looks in the mirror and remembers “oh that’s right… I’m Steven Lenhardt!” (cue sad music and a single tear)

  60. thaDeuce says:

    by the same token, it also has a chilling effect on hard but honest play. mcdonald was not malicious but was playing hard, had recieved a yellow, and should be able to move on.

  61. th says:

    I agree. Beckham consistently gets away with horrendous tackles. No bookings and certainly no fines or suspensions handed down. Preferential treatment?

  62. th says:

    Its the refs job deal with discipline. Too bad the refs in the MLS are a joke. The league should only get involved with suspensions and fines when it comes to violent misconduct or racism.

  63. fischy says:

    None, unless you think Lenhart is a star..or you don’t realize that Moffat is white.

  64. fischy says:

    I’ve long said that Ihemelu is the dirtiest player in the league. He’s got two scalps to his credit — careers derailed: Dominic Mediate and Mac Kandji. Actually, I should say two that I know of. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn they weren’t the only ones to be cut down Ugo.

  65. Vinz Clortho says:

    I don’t think the league is going overboard with this (though they certainly could)..

    It’s a good tool to keep players in check, ie.they know video review may result in some disciplinary action and adjust their game..

  66. Air Jordanz says:

    Diving/Flopping happens in both those leagues.

    It’s less tolerated in the NBA and less detectable in the NFL (where people are getting hurt, seriously, left and right).

    Also, it’s pretty hard to hurt an American football player with a headbutt or an elbow to the face when he’s in full pads and helmet. Even the best actors can’t make that seem legit.

  67. Air Jordanz says:

    Cripples? If you’re reading an article about MLS on an American soccer blog, I’d expect you to recognize the following names:

    Stuart Holden, Steve Zakuani, David Ferreira, Javier Morales

    Some of these guys’ injuries would have ended their careers 10-20 years ago and left them “cripples.”

  68. jonk says:

    Yep, sorry, I meant that in regard to McDonald’s suspension.

  69. jonk says:

    And Harris’. Not Cruz.

  70. bryan says:

    i like this. especially for simulation. i think the mcdonald one is pretty harsh though.

  71. th says:

    Diving, embellishment or whatever you want to call it is considered “unsporting behavior” and is listed under Law 12 as a “cautionable offense”. A yellow card is satisfactory punishment. No need to fine already underpaid players, especially since they have already been punished.