The MLS Disciplinary Committee have banned Sounders FC defender Marc Burch for three matches and fined him an undisclosed sum following homophobic remarks aimed at Real Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson in the 75th minute of the MLS play-off match.
He must also attend diversity and sensitivity training.
“Major League Soccer has a zero tolerance policy in response to this type of behavior from its players or staff,” said MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
“While I understand and believe that Mr. Burch is remorseful, Major League Soccer is committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect.”
The television cameras caught the left back uttering a derogatory term during the match at RSL’s Rio Tinto Stadium.
Burch was seen by many television viewers addressing Canadian midfielder Will Johnson in the second leg of their MLS play-off.
Burch will miss Sounders FC’s two legged tie with Los Angeles Galaxy. He would also miss the MLS Cup Final should Sounders prevail in that tie. Sounders’ opponents would be either Burch’s old club DC United or Houston Dynamo.
The latter would have good reason to cry foul should Burch have escaped a three match ban. Their midfielder Colin Clarke received that sentence for use of the same term in a match, ironically in Seattle.
Sounders may have a serious problem replacing Burch.
The other starting left back Leo Gonzalez has been sidelined for some time with a hamstring injury. He is currently listed as ‘questionable’ in the MLS injury report.
The next best option is the utility player Zach Scott who is a more natural right back. He is a capable fill in central defender too but has been rarely used at left back.
Brad Evans who fills every role his coach asks of him may also be a possibility but Scott is more likely. The prospect of facing Landon Donovan and Robbie Keane with a third choice left back cannot be appealing for Seattle.
Any hopes of delaying the ban to allow Burch to play would have been dismissed by memories of the speed with which MLS acted to suspend Vancouver’s Barry Robson. Robson was suspended on the eve of a Saturday lunchtime kick off in Seattle after a petulant outburst in a match the previous Wednesday.
Vancouver Whitecaps President Bob Lenarduzzi revealed to the media that the Canadian club had tried to delay the onset of the suspension to avert wrecking their preparation for the Sounders match within 16 hours of kick off. MLS refused.
Prost Amerika conducted post match interviews with both Burch and Johnson but was unaware of the incident at the time.
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