The verdict is in, and it’s not good news for Toronto FC.
Major League Soccer has decided that it won’t suspend New York City FC forward David Villa, which means the Spanish forward will be available for Sunday’s second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals at Yankee Stadium.
A source confirmed to Sportsnet that MLS decided not to take any action against Villa. The news of the league’s decision was first reported by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl.
The MLS disciplinary committee reviewed an incident from this past Sunday’s first leg, a 2-0 win for TFC at BMO Field, when Villa kicked out at Toronto’s Armando Cooper after the two players collided midway through the first half.
Villa wasn’t cautioned on the play, even though it was spotted by referee Silviu Petrescu, but the league’s disciplinary committee can review such incidents and has the option of retroactively suspending players.
According to Wahl’s report, the committee unanimously ruled the offense was a clear and unequivocal red card, but that it wasn’t reckless or egregious in nature such that it must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game. A retroactive suspension is only handed out when both standards are met.
The league’s five-member disciplinary committee is comprised of three former MLS players, one former MLS coach and one former MLS referee.
Because of this decision, Villa, who ranked second in MLS scoring with 23 goals during the regular season and is a finalist for the league’s MVP award, will be available to play this weekend.
New York coach Patrick Vieira said he didn’t see the incident when questioned about it by reporters in the post-match press conference. But Toronto coach Greg Vanney claimed he did, and he stated he felt the Spaniard should be suspended.
“I have a ton of respect for David Villa. He’s a phenomenal player; one of the best in this league. But I think there are instances in a game, that regardless of who you are, when you make choices like that where a player is defenseless and you take a whack at him from behind, on any other day and in any other league that player sees a suspension,” Vanney said.
“It will be up to our review panel and committee to make a decision, it’s not my call. But for me it was pretty blatant. I saw it from the second it happened, I’ve seen a replay of it again. It’s just not something that is acceptable really in the league.
Coincidentally, the MLS disciplinary committee retroactively suspended Cooper back in September when the Panamanian kicked at New York Red Bulls midfielder Felipe after play had stopped
With all of this in mind, MLS will surely come in for heavy criticism in the next few days. A back lash has already started on social media, with TFC fans and Toronto-based reporters claiming that there is a double standard when it comes out handing out retroactive suspensions: one set of rules for players such as Cooper, and another for top stars such as Villa.