Mullan suspended 10 games, fined $5,000 for tackle that broke Zakuani's leg

Mullan (Getty Images)

Colorado Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan has been suspended 10 games and fined $5,000 for his tackle that broke Steve Zakuani's leg in two places last Friday night.

The Major League Soccer Disciplinary Committee added nine games and $4,750 onto the automatic punishment for receiving a red card by determining that "Mullan’s challenge was reckless, egregious, and showed utter disregard for the safety of his opponent," according to a statement released by the league.

Mullan issued a public apology on Wednesday, and he will reportedly not appeal the punishment. The suspension matches the longest one ever handed out by the league, when Ricardo Clark was suspended 10 games for kicking Carlos Ruiz in 2007. It's the longest suspension for an on-ball incident in league history.

What do you think of the punishment? Too severe? Not severe enough? Sound about right?

Share your thoughts below.

  • understood

    actually it seems there’s some ignorance on your part since most people who watch the league have said that mullan frequently plays on the edge…he actually has a rep getting frustrated at times and committing message sending tackles…he has always been known as a borderline player as evidenced by taylor twellmans tweets regarding this incident where he indicated he got texts from players around the league saying they were not surprised that mullan was involved in this incident


  • Aaron

    I wouldn’t have minded seeing a few more games attached. But that said, I’m glad he’ll be available at Quest Field, I just hope he plays.


  • Rowsdower

    Some of this “thug” and “journeyman” adjectives being thrown at Mullan is just plain ridiculous. The guy was a integral cog out on the right wing for FIVE MLS Cups. Yes, he is responsible for a terrible challenge but a thug? No way.


  • hefebreo

    in mexico for example once a injury like this is made the ofensive part is suspended until the injured player is able to play again, thats fair to me


  • Aaron

    Alright ETJ, put down the pipe and let’s come back to reality… nice and slow now, here we go.


  • Primoone


    That same tackle happens during the course of the game…Zak and Mullan just happened to be a coupleof inches removed from safety and a warning, respectively. I can’t help to think that he could have saved himself a few games had he not tried to defend his play in the media.

    And the vilifying of Mullan is unnecessary…seriously.


  • Aaron

    I’ll have to disagree with you here. I liken this to reckless driving. You don’t necessarily have the intent to severely injure someone, but you are acting in a noticeably reckless manner when you should know better.


  • Matt C in Tampa

    Partly correct. I think Clark’s should have been less. Actually, he maybe should’ve gotten a bonus.


  • Bonji

    At the end of the day this doesn’t solve anything. As other posters say Mullan is being suspended for the result of the tackle, not the tackle.

    Dema Kovalenko has broken two legs in league play (both burn players, ending one career) and one of a college kid in a friendly (I believe ending his career). He never got a ten game suspension. He hasn’t been suspended 10 games combined for three broken legs.

    MLS needs to address the problem, not the end result. Referees are bad in the league. They’re inconsistent and players don’t know what is going to be called a foul one day and what won’t the next day. Mullan obviously thought he was fouled and then made a bad decision and went in too hard on Zakuani. He shouldn’t have done that. It was obviously too hard a tackle. But the reason he did was frustration. A frustration you see in players, coaches and fans alike around the league.

    US Soccer and MLS need to work together to get MLS refs on the same page, calling fouls consistently. Until they do, this kind of thing is going to continue to happen. This penalty won’t stop it. It makes Mullan a scape goat.


  • abc

    Not enough, MLS and the commish should have really made a statement here, opportunity missed.


  • Eliminate the Offside (no S!) Rule

    Yes, I saw the video. He was clearly upset – as he should have been. But I also think he meant what he said.

    I think MLS has an opportunity to make a choice — to say, through its actions, that MLS should be about creative offensive soccer, rather than sloppy, brutish negative soccer.


  • JJ

    He is being suspended for the tackle AND the result. This tackle had a lot of bad in it. Frustration, retaliation, violent recklessness, severe injury, and a lack of remorse all played into it imo.

    This is the only tackle in MLS history to have this many significantly bad attributes.

    Name another tackle or incedent where you could say these things about it.


  • scott47a

    There seems to be a disconnect in the discussion between the idea of “malice” and the idea of “intent to injure.”

    I think it’s obvious that the guy came in with malice. He was not just attempting to win the ball, he was attempting to “pay back” after what he perceived was a foul against him that the ref missed.

    Anyone who says that Mullan’s intent was just to win the ball is wrong. But don’t take my word for it. Go back and read the league’s interpretation of events.


  • RSLRob

    Anyone catch the Rapids press release expressing “disappointment” over the decision? Apparently since Mullan is an all-around great guy he doesn’t deserve the punishment.


  • JimLuk

    As a Rapids fan I have a few thoughts, first off I w agree that this is fair discipline, though I would have hoped for a few less games myself.

    Now those out there that want to vilify the Rapids and our style of play do so with a complete disregard for the situation in Colorado. Complaints should be directed at Stan Kroenke because he gives the rapids front office less than half the money of the next lowest team. Guess what this means, no scouting trips to Africa or South America. I personally think Gary Smith has done very well with what he has been given, I can’t say for sure that the style of play would be different with more resources but we have what we have for now.

    Most Colorado fans that I know would be the first to say they are critical of the “ugly”(English) style of soccer that the Rapids play.

    Not to be making excuses (which I’m not), but I wanted to put that out there. I would love to see a player or two from somewhere farther south than Jamaica.

    I’m curious whether people think Brek Shea’s scissor “tackle” last season warrants ten games as it too was “reckless, egregious, and showed utter disregard for the safety of his opponent.”

    And because I am a Rapids supporter I wonder what the penalty should have been for Ihemelu shoving an injured(admittedly flopping like Ruiz, but injured nonetheless) Kanji in the MLS cup last year.

    Discipline and referees will never always be correct, but that drama is a small part of why we love the game. We can do it without resorting to branding a players career or an entire team as “thugs.”

    Sorry for that, my mini rant is over.


  • Brad

    Well if Taylor Twellman says so, than it must be so.

    And I said that Mullan has not been involved in a “situation like this “, meaning that he has not been suspended in addition to noramal card accumulation. (To the best of my knowledge). Its funny how history gets re-written to suit the present.


  • Aaron

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one… the second part of the post was hilarious. Just picturing myself casually walking by my boss as she’s holding her morning coffee then immediately going straight for the legs with a precision scissor-chopdown. Then tell her that I’ve done it hundreds of times before, and that I’d likely do it again.


  • Brad

    To be honest, Buster, when I looked at my post, after it went up, I realized it was stronger than I intended. What I was really trying to stress, was that all of the excessive and incindiary comments, much of which were taken out of context, were less than flattering and I believe detrimental to the MLS. Sorry the post read like it did, but I refrained from commenting on the issue, until the discipline was given, and then I realized that I was more dissapointed in the fans reaction, that I was of the Rapids player.


  • Butch

    This punishment should have been more severe. Suspend him the rest of the year and fine him, his entire salary for the year. Brian Mullan = 100% pure loser.


  • Joamiq

    Interesting. Excessive, IMO. I hope the league is prepared to hand out more 10+ game suspensions for tackles like this.


  • NF

    The 10-game suspension was fair. A $5,000 fine would greatly affect a player making the minimum but probably will not be felt that much by Mullan. That’s the way the world works though.

    Anyone saying the result should not be taken into account is simply wrong. It doesn’t work that way in the legal system or here. When you act recklessly (and/or violently), you are held accountable for your actions and the outcome of those actions. Otherwise, you have to punish people based on presumption of what could have happened.

    All in all, MLS has made some good decisions recently with this suspension, rescinding Collin’s red card, working with RSL’s schedule to place a priority on the Champions’ League. If the officiating issues can be addressed by the USSF, we’ll be in good shape.


  • Dizzo

    They’re reviewing it as well. It was a tackle from behind which is pretty common in MLS. However, if they really want to send a message they could give a fine or one day suspension for dangerous play to Leathers as well. A lot less likely, but possible IMHO.


  • PetedeLA

    Think he was still in the heat of the moment.

    I greatly respect his decision to not appeal the punishment.

    I don’t know much about Mullan, but aside from that tackle he seems like a real professional.

    He made a mistake. He got punished.

    If I were Steve Z.’s immediate family I’d probably want his head, but the way everything was dealt with seems totally fair.

    For the record, I asked for at least 8 games, a weeks wages, and community service hours.


  • DingDong

    Ken’s comment makes sense. The fine is probably deductible, so it comes out of his pre-tax income. It’s more like a $3,500 tax. (His moving expenses are almost certainly deductible as well).


  • Smits

    Too harsh for a tough but fair tackle.

    YES the result was unfortunate but the tackle didn’t look malicious.

    Granted I only watched the footage once because the result was so gruesome


  • marco

    Mullan needs counseling. When he said, he’d ‘do it again’ he failed to understand his reckless, vengeful, dangerous tackle.


  • Shwaxinator

    I have to agree with AJ.

    Terrible result. Obviously he jumped into the tackle, but if Z’s studs hadn’t stuck in the field he would probably have been back up and playing through the game.

    Consistently punishing studs up reckless tackles with a straight red would do more for overall behavior in the league than a huge suspension once every five years.


  • Warren

    Saying Mullan did not go into the tackle with malice aforethought is baseless.

    As league has already concluded. Literally, the case is closed, Mullan’s already convicted and sentenced.

    But you still want to argue that in his own mind Mullan is innocent?

    Fine, irrelevant point granted.


  • Warren

    no. making excuses for out of control leg breakers is unncessary. seriously.

    Doesn’t seem you got the memo yet from the league that the good old low-skill/sloppy tackle MLS is thing of the past…


  • Warren

    scape goating couldn’t happen to a moe deserving guy…playing in MLS.

    Now if we could extraterritorially punish deJong and our favorite Manchester united thugs for laying in to Holden…


  • TimN

    I’m glad to see this punishment handed down. He assuredly deserved it, ESPECIALLY after his completely tone deaf response after the game…and then to add on the “groaner” of “It’s a tackle I’d probably do again.” Moron!

    I hope the rest of the league’s hacks get the message.


  • RB

    What’s moronic is the decontextualization and mischaracterization of that part of his statement

    Over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over.

    You’d think this was politics, it’s been so sound bite-ified and blown out of proportion. Periodically others here have brought up this point, but when so many are eager to believe whatever suits their preconceived notions, it’s impossible to get anyone to listen and think for half a moment.


  • smokeminside

    Brad, you don’t have to cast aspersions on soccer fans who are rabid supporters and DO know a lot about the game. Seattle’s had fans like that since probably before you were born.


  • Sean

    Didn’t see the injury, but can anyone tell me (who saw both) if it was on the same level as the horrific Preston Burpo injury at the US Open Cup last year?

    I think it would have affected just as many people if it was better attended and have a higher viewership.

    I don’t think Burpo has played since.

    That wasn’t ‘exactly’ a dirty incident. Although, I thought Dane Richards was foolish to challenge for that ball. It was a 50-50 ball but from my vantage point, the keeper had the slight edge to get there. Dane shouldn’t have contested.


  • PutAbirdOnIt

    Look .. the guy’s a vet of this league, he should know better.

    Hey Young bucks!!.. Don’t be like Mullan


  • TimN

    Are you kidding me?! What’s out of context about his half-hearted apology after the game? Watch the video…he recklessly crashed into Zakuani high and with two feet seconds after having the ball stripped and clearly upset that the official did not call a foul. This guy is a league leader in fouls, and is known for rough play. Zakuani’s injury could be career ending. It’s assuredly season ending, and at the VERY LEAST puts him through months of suffering and rehab. I can’t even believe you’re trying to defend Mullan on ANY level…Mullan got EXACTLY what he deserved!


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