BY Stanley Holmes 02:29PM 04/28/2011

White out, Mullan suspended, what’s next?

Suspension was right, but White’s injury leaves Sounders with questions

Forward O'Brian White is out indefinitely after undergoing surgery to remove a blood clot in his leg. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Major League Soccer did the right thing — suspending Colorado’s Brian Mullan on Thursday for 10 matches after he broke Steve Zakuani’s leg in the match against the Rapids last week.

To complicate things further, the Seattle Sounders lost another starting player to injury — this time forward O’Brian White, who underwent surgery Wednesday to remove a blood clot in his left leg. The Sounders said White, 25, will be out indefinitely.

“Obviously it’s good for O’Brian that they were able to identify it now before that can obviously develop into a serious life-threatening type of issue,” Coach Sigi Schmid said.  “It’s been a strange one for our team. You lose another player who has been very important. We are basically losing our top two scorers so far as we are into the season but we have to move on. We’ve got players who are professional players who are ready to play and take their spot.”

The Sounders should pair Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales together up front. They are currently the two best remaining forwards and look like they are forging a good understanding in the matches they have played together. With White out of the picture for the moment, the two South Americans are the team’s most dangerous attacking players.

Other options are available. Mike Fucito, the fleet-footed human dynamo, is injury-free and desparate to see his first minutes. David Estrada and Miguel Montano are also options up top — but neither inspire the kind of confidence that Montero and Rosales do.

Simply put, the Sounders cannot afford to take a lot of risks. They need their forwards to deliver and score goals. Montero and Rosales offer the best hope.

The Zakuani and White injuries also change the complexion of the midfield. The starting quartet should be: Erik Friberg on the right or in the middle; Brad Evans in the middle or on the right; Alvaro Fernandez on the left; and Osvaldo Alonso playing the holding role. That seems fairly simple, if all are injury free. They are the team’s four best remaining midfielders.

Of course, none of this would have been an issue if Mullan had not decided to snap Zakuani’s fibula and tibia.

The MLS punished the perpetrators of the ugly game — sending a strong signal to the destroyers of creative, artful soccer that vicious, retaliatory tackling aimed at injuring players will not be tolerated.

The 10-game suspension and $5,000 fine it handed out to Mullan for scything Zakuani out of commission is probably appropriate punishment.

Will it bring back one of the league’s most dynamic and entertaining players? No. As  Schmid and general manager Adrian Hanauer have remarked since the horrific injury: no amount of punishment will bring back Zakuani.

“As a league, the Commissioner has stated his intention to be more protective of dynamic, attacking players. Hopefully this suspension is a step in the right direction,” Hanauer said.
“However, the harsh reality of this situation is that no length of suspension will bring back Steve to action any faster.”

Steve Zakuani was carted off the pitch Friday night after a reckless tackle by Colorado's Brian Mullan broke Zakuani's leg. / Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

Said Schmid: “I know nobody feels worse than Brian Mullan about this incident because I know Brian as a person. It was an unfortunate situation in that regard but I think the suspension is probably appropriate based upon what the league stated as their commitment at the beginning of the season.”

The league was less tolerant in its view of the incident and in its statement. The league agrees there is no room for brutish thuggery in the MLS: “The Disciplinary Committee determined that Mullan’s challenge was reckless, egregious, and showed utter disregard for the safety of his opponent.”

Let’s give the MLS credit for imposing a strong and unequivocal statement — that the nabobs of negativity that prowl the dark edges of the pitch intent on snuffing out the artistry and the creativity of the game will be punished– severely.

This is a step in the right direction.


  • Tim Foss

    Sigi has already said that he wouldn’t play Rosales and Montero together up top. They both essentially play the same position, so it is more likely that we would see Jaqua get the start in Jaqua’s place. I’d luke to see Evans ride the bench with Rosales as an attacking mid and Montero and Jaqua up top.

  • Paul

    i agree with Tim. It will probably be Jacqua up top. Sigi obviously sees something in Evans that the rest of us are missing.

  • Ron Moran

    I agree with Tim, that Evans needs to ride the bench. Rosales is a RM, and Erik a CM. So, those two, plus Alvaro and Ozzie, should be the starting mids.

  • Michael Kaiser

     You know, I tend to agree with Art here, but the thing is, the pitching will probably not be as good in the future  either.  Hard to improve on first. So do you waste it?  But, ya, the Mariners are light years, mentally and otherwise, from being really competitive, so loading up on hitting at this point–even if it could be done–would be like what happens when you give food to a starving person.  If you are not careful they die and, regardless, their system arguably is not ready for it. Kind of interesting, though, that such a parallel can be made about the Mariners. 

  • SeattleNative

    Nice theory, but I think you’re offbase on the offensive analysis, pardon my pun. I agree , our offense is pathetic. However, as the weather warms, so will the hitting. These Mariners have been tragically unlucky. Leagues misadventures were just the tip of the past blunders, including Ichiro’s sunball. At least 3 of our last 6 losses should have been W’s. Those 3 wins would put us closer to. 500 which is probably the best this group could expect. The upside is that our rotation is for real and should be for some time. Their relative ages would suggest many years of productive pitching. Don’t forget, Wedge is a master of pitching and bullpen management. He cut his teeth managing pitchers and in-game strategy. The offense will be fine. Smoak is a budding superstar in the Griffey mold. Figgins won’t be around, preceded by Wilson if the rumors are true. Ackley and Gutierrez will improve the offense if not the defense. Pitching and defense will take us to the World Series. We have that. Offense will win the Series for us. Trader Jack should not and will not sacrifice pitching. Over Wedge’s dead body. I believe help us on the way and that Ackley, Carp and Peguero will make positive contributions this year. Trades will be made and Jack Z will be in the driver’s seat. I hope he doesn’t blow it. We have most of the right ingredients to contend. It’s just getting over that hump, like Wedge said, you win games like today and then you begin to expect to win games like that. Their confidence grows and next thing you know, they’ve won 10 in a row. Could happen, probably not. We can be good, with our starting pitching the skies the limit. Good times are just around the corner.