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Comparing Nemeth’s Suspension to Other Recent MLS Suspensions

Kaku, Zlatan, Nemeth: One of these is not like the other.

MLS: New England Revolution at Sporting Kansas City William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven’t heard, Krisztian Nemeth’s one game red card suspension has been extended to a second game. So instead of simply missing the game against the second place Seattle Sounders, he’ll also miss today’s game against third place LA Galaxy.

First, let’s remember the foul in question.

There is no sugarcoating it. That challenge is horrific. Nemeth comes in late with his leg full extended and he gets Felipe Martins on the calf/ankle in a violent fashion with his studs up. The red card was well deserved. Honestly, adding another game to the suspension isn’t out of line.

The issue for me is two-fold. The suspension was announced on the eve of the LA Galaxy game. It’s unclear when SKC knew about the impending suspension. Second, Major League Soccer is being inconsistent with their suspensions. Let’s compare.

The Kaku Suspension

In case you’ve been under a rock, here is the initial story about Kaku being ejected from a game for violent conduct to a fan (including video). That action happened in the 93rd minute. So he missed a couple minutes and then was ultimately suspended for just two additional games. It was a suspension that drew the ire of fans and supporters groups alike.

Zlatan’s Suspension

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is going to break all the MLS records (at least according to him). One that he’s on pace to set is the number of reviews by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. One such review came after much delay from the May 11th incident between him and Sean Johnson of New York City FC.

Zlatan put his hand into the throat of Johnson. He would ultimately get a two-game suspension but the misconduct was missed by both the referee and the VAR during the game. That suspension ends just in time for him to come to Children’s Mercy Park today.

Paul Arreola’s Suspension

Another recent piece of misconduct comes from D.C. United’s Paul Arreola. On May 18th in the game against the Houston Dynamo Arreola got sent off after a review for a violent stomp. He was ultimately suspended two more games. As you can see in the gif below, Arreola appears to take an intentional step towards Dynamo defender Adam Lundkvist. That foul came in the 82nd minute so it was also technically shorter than Nemeth’s suspension.

Marco Fabian received exactly the same suspension for a stomp against Johnny Russell when Sporting Kansas City played the Philadelphia Union earlier this year. That’s all the examples in 2019 of an suspension being extended.

It’s All the Same

So just to be clear, all these things are the same to MLS. Two players violently stomping their opponents on purpose. Zlatan choking another player. Kaku committing violent conduct against and ultimately injuring a fan. Major League Soccer views these as all the same.

It seems infinitely clear intention should be taken into account. Just to restate it, Nemeth’s suspension is fine. There are no examples of one like his from 2019 in MLS, but if you dig a little deeper you can see there have been suspensions like his in the past. The difference is things that seems objectively worse are being treated the same in 2019.

The reason for that seems to be star power. Kaku is the most expensive player in New York Red Bulls history. Zlatan is one of the most noticeable names in the world. Even Fabian and Arreola are bigger names domestically than Nemeth. It’s not clear that star power matters, but it’s hard not to question it when the evidence is laid out.

[Update: This story originally mistakenly said Kaku’s suspension was shorter than Nemeth’s but obviously two games plus the red card game is longer for Kaku. Math is hard.]