For better or worse, Major League Soccer handed down its verdict this week to Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio after his dive during last week’s win over San Jose.
For Saborio, a one-game suspension was what MLS decided was the best option for a player who has had a hard time getting out of one person‘s–RSL head coach Jason Kreis–doghouse this season, let alone a league‘s.
For a league that has had a short-lived 1 v 1 “shootout” to decide games that ended in ties, and some of the most suspect refereeing this side of any European league accused of match-fixing, MLS sure isn’t doing itself any favors, it seems, by handing out such a swift and decisive punishment.
The action seemed a bit extreme to some, given that D.C. United striker Charlie Davies–also a headline-grabbing type like Saborio–also flung himself in midair during a game, ironically against RSL, and only received a small fine for his action.
The other problem? Saborio’s suspension was handed down yesterday–Friday–one day before RSL’s game against Columbus and meant that Sabo would sit out this crucial home game against the Crew.
Compared to Davies, who hardly received any notoriety from his flight of fancy, RSL’s lone designated player has taken hit after hit from the media, most of it negative.
Now, after RSL’s staff had game-planned for Saborio to play against the Crew, RSL would take that hit as well in a rare 2-0 home loss to Columbus.
Haitian Jean Alexandre did what he could in Saborio’s absence, under unfortunate circumstances.
“I didn’t feel unprepared [to start] at all. I was focused throughout the week. The coaching staff was helping me ahead of time and there was the possibility that I would be playing the game,” Alexandre said.
Despite Saborio reportedly clearing the air with Kreis, and the two coming to their own understanding not long after the San Jose game, and Kreis and he agreeing that Sabo’s dives would not take place again, MLS did not see things Kreis’ way.
The reason was simple enough in theory: end these theatrical dives from forwards looking to engineer more goal-scoring opportunities.
As commentator Brian Dunseth pointed out duing the RSL-Columbus game, this is indeed a watershed moment for all defenders, because now, they can dig in a little more, and play opposing forwards more physical than they had before.
Only time will tell whether or not MLS’ action against Saborio actually will do anything to a problem that is global, and has lasted as long as the sport has been around.
Asking players who grew up earning suspect penalty kicks and free kicks on dives is like requesting that goalkeepers don’t need to flatten forwards who wander into an 18-yard box looking to score.
It doesn’t really make sense, but like many things MLS does, it tends to be a bit on the ridiculous side.
Perhaps, as Dunseth suggested, and Alexi Lalas before him on a different telecast, it may take an act of extreme prejudice on the part of a few MLS defenders for the league to realize it may have done something wrong here.
In the meantime, Major League Soccer may have helped rob RSL of three crucial points Saturday against the Crew by suspending Saborio, and painted a giant target on its back as the league heads into the most critical point of its season.