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WPS suspends Wambach and McNeil after Daniela incident

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Amidst some serious controversy in the aftermath of a defining moment for Womens Professional Soccer, the league has come to what should be considered a fair and reasonable decision regarding the issue.

With a statement by WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci and the suspensions of Abby Wambach and Kia McNeil, the time has come to move on from this unfortunate incident and to get back to playing soccer.

But before we can do that, let us first review the decision making process for the situation in question.

In case for some crazy reason you've missed all of the commotion, St. Louis Athletica midfielder Daniela Alves Lima sustained two damaged knee ligaments and a cracked tibia as the result of a questionable slide tackle by the Washington Freedom's Abby Wambach.

As the first official to respond from the WPS, Chief Operating Officer Mary Harvey assured the public that the league "[was] carefully reviewing the play, just as [they were] reviewing other physical plays and yellow cards issued over the weekend."  She noted that "the review must play out properly and thoroughly before any judgments can be made."

On Wednesday,  results of the League Disciplinary Committee's review concluded that "In the Committee’s collective opinion, none of [on-field incidents in the Washington-St.Louis game]  met the very specific criteria for over-ruling the decisions of the game referee, and therefore further disciplinary measures were not imposed."

In addition to the review, the committee also acknowledged that "the Commissioner may independently exercise her discretion to further review the match and assess penalties based upon conduct that is detrimental to the best interests of WPS,  the integrity of its matches and the protection of its Players.  The Commissioner has elected to and is in the process of reviewing the circumstances of the Freedom-Athletica match, and it is expected that she will announce the results of her review by the end of business on Thursday, May 7th."

So, in comes Thursday.  After a lengthy review process, Commisioner Tonya Antonucci made the decision to suspend a player from both the Washington Freedom and the St. Louis Athletica with reasonable justification for each.

For Athletica center-back Kia McNeil, her "persistent egregious conduct toward an opposing player" contributes to a one game suspension while the Freedom's Wambach faces the same penalty "based upon a tackle in the 80th minute that was reckless and resulted in a potentially season-ending injury of an opposing player."

The suspensions will stand for the next WPS game possible in which each player is present with the team and physically able and to play.

Yes, McNeil was an enforcer throughout much of the game and she had a few questionable tackles here and there.  It is a positive move that the WPS drew the line on a repeated disregard to play the ball.  It appears McNeil's play heightened the overall game tension, so the league's decision to suspend her is understandable.

It is unfortunate that the Athletica will miss a key part of its defensive unit this week, but the Commissioner is right in her thoughts that players have the responsibility to conduct themselves in a certain manner on the pitch.  McNeil also picked up a yellow card for persistent infringement in Week Five against L.A.  No to say that as a player, McNeil constantly drills opponents, but it is to say that at some point enough has to be enough.

We all knew that someone would be made the example in this situation.  I was pretty confident that it would only be Wambach,  but I do find it fair McNeil will face some consequences. 

After making the decision to suspend players, Commissioner Antonucci made this statement:

"I elected to review the circumstances of the Freedom-Athletica match out of concern that the nature of play, if left unchecked, could lead to circumstances in future games that might pose a threat to the safety of the players and to the integrity of the league.  In addition to the issuance of the discipline in the Decision above, I have directed that the circumstances of this match be brought to the attention of the US Soccer Federation, which provides referee assignments for WPS matches, and that serious consideration be given to avoiding these circumstances when making future referee assignments."

In the intial days following the incident, I felt that suspensions were going a bit far. However, afyer taking a few days to analyze the situation in its entirety, I agree 100 percent with the above mentioned Decision.

If an incident such as this goes undisciplined or unaddressed, it leaves the door open for a more severe incident to happen in the future.Thankfully, the WPS does well in choosing to draw the line early.

The league has made a strong statement in regards which types of behavior it will not tolerate. I agree with that standard and appreciate that the WPS will uphold the integrity of the game. I also appreciate the fact that the Commissioner does not allow the game's poor officiating to go unnoticed. 

The WPS has survived its first controversy with class, and I commend the Commissioner and all parties involved for taking the necessary steps to come to a just decision. Although it took nearly the entire week to reach the final conclusion, at least the process yielded a positive end result. 

Again, it is very unfortunate that two outstanding players will miss competition, but it is even more unfortunate that their irresponsibility contributed to such a tragic injury.

How do you think the WPS handled this situation? Do you think that a single game suspension for Wambach and McNeil was the right thing to do?  Share your thoughts below.


  1. Studs up, two footed tackle , gets no ball and results in injury?

    5 games + no wages.

    The referee in the match who allowed all this to escalate? fired.

  2. Wombat made a bad tackle that sometimes would be punished by a red card and sometimes by a yellow card. Having seen the video, a good argument could be made for a red one. The tackle was clearly of a kind that an experienced player would know could cause serious injury, and that one wants to punish and eradicate from the game. Red card, 3 games suspension and 2 weeks’ wages for Wombat.

  3. Suspend someone for fouling alot? Suspend someone for making a tackle that got the other player hurt even though the player making the tackle did nothing wrong. It was just an unfortunate event that happened.

  4. at least they commented on the refereeing, and hopefully the stage is now set for how the WPS commissioner WANTS the league to be refereed and how they WANT the WPS game to be played.

  5. Wambat got off light…as expected.

    The real loser in all this is Danella a player with far more skill and abilty that Wambat. She wasn’t involved in Abby and McNiel’s little war of aggression yet she pays the ultimate price.

    And sorry, but if you make a bad challenge it definatly should be a worse punishment if that bad challenge also severly injures another player. In the law there is liability and then damages. The greater the injury the greater the damages.

    Wambat should have seen mulitple games suspended imposed here and even a fine IMO.

  6. Referees are taught to assess fouls in the following manner: no card if the foul is careless, yellow if the foul is reckless, red if the foul is excessive. In the commish’s own words Abby’s foul was reckless (“based upon a tackle in the 80th minute that was reckless”), hence a yellow and no game suspension.

  7. Stupid decision. McNeil’s suspension is a make-up call. Absent proof of malicious intent on Wambach’s part, Daniela’s injury was just a bad break (pun intended). You don’t suspend based on the injury, you discipline based on the foul. Or, put another way by others, what if Daniela jumps right up from the tackle or was able to play in the next game? Does Wambach earn a suspension then? does McNeil? The Comissioner screwed the pooch big time here. All her decision will beget is endless “appeals” to her to suspend “rough” players who may or may not have been carded in a game.

  8. I don’t get it. This is a professional sports league not a recreational youth league. Soccer is a tough game and injuries happen. IMO wambach’s tackle was not malicious at all. Daniela’s injury is unfortunate, but just because a player gets injured doesn’t mean automatic suspensions. I really think the commish overreacted. Bad move.

  9. i don’t get the suspension. Maybe it was the quality of the footage I saw, but it looked clumsy, but not malicious.

    Overreact, trying to be prudent. Not going to bash the commish too much on this, though. Move on.

  10. i think it was a fair decision. and like it’s been said, now that this kind of situation is out there it’s good to see it being dealt with rather than waiting for the next occurrence.

  11. When I first glanced at this headline I assumed that McNeil was the ref! I’ve never heard of a suspension like McNeil has received. Is there any history of this sort of thing?

  12. Frankly, the ref should be fired.

    He should have put an end to the physical play in the first half before it got out of hand the way that it did in the second.

    IMO, he shares a lot of the blame for Daniella’s injury.

    Also, regardless of whether or not Abby’s tackle deserved a suspension, the commissioner should not override the disciplinary committee. Assessing a suspension becuase a star got hurt is rediculous and has now set up the league to maintain it’s own “Michael Jordan” rule.

  13. I already posted on Soccer Insider about this. Rather than repost, I’ll just say I agree with Christa wholeheartedly.

  14. I don’t like the decision. I really don’t.

    But the Commish is the Commish. If you are going to have the title then have the erh umh confidence to make a decision.

    She made the decision. That is what commishes do. She was the “decider”. I agree with the commision. But hey,

    I understand that they are trying to protect their investments.

    I think McNiell getting suspended is a freaking “make up” move if I have ever seen one. And a very lame one.

    Niether Wambach nor McNeill pulled a freaking Roy Keane move. Was Abby getting clobbered? Sure. Did the subpar center ref and his crew allow it to happen? McNeill operated inside the parameters that the ref decided to utilize for that particular match.

    Now players are served notice. Think twice before going in for the tackle. Or before getting “too rough”.

    And the USSF is served notice. Select a better ref. Just because you worked a U16 select club matches game last week doesn’t mean you’re automatically ready to step a few levels.

    I wonder what the Commish will do if they have a brawl like what took place in the WNBA ala LA Sparks and Detroit Shock last year…

  15. Was never a suspension.

    Another case of an American soccer body providing punishment based on the result of a challenge, not on the basis of the tackle itself. The fact that Daniela was injured doens’t mean it was a bad tackle. Unfortunate, yes, but no means a suspension. It was a foul, nothing more. Daniela left her leg and was off balance. Wambach did nothing wrong.

    Don’t misunderstand, I don’t care about the WPS at all, or Wambach. This is justa noddy call.

  16. You must care enough to ask the question.

    By the way, let me give you an very answer.

    I care. I care a lot. Some other people care, as well.

    But maybe when you asked the question you were talking about the sport in this country in general. Or maybe MLS…


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