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Wagner suspension shows inconsistency and poor timing in Disciplinary Committee rulings

Kai Wagner was suspended for an additional game on Tuesday

Photo by Morgan Tencza

Philadelphia Union left back Kai Wagner will be out for a second straight game against FC Cincinnati tonight after the MLS Disciplinary Committee handed him an additional suspension for his studs up challenge late in the April 20 win over Montreal Impact.

The ruling is difficult to challenge consider how harsh — not to mention needless — the tackle was but everything about the decision and the timing of it calls into question how the league’s unnamed committee metes out justice.

When head coach Jim Curtin was asked about his star left back’s status on Tuesday after training, he told reporters he was still waiting to hear a final final decision from the committee. A little over 24 hours before a game, the head coach didn’t know whether he’d have the services of a left back for a foul he committed 10 days earlier?

As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s not a new phenomenon. Remember how Curtin found out two days before a game that he’d lose Marco Fabián to an additional suspension? Or how he found out the day before the first game of the season in 2018 that Fafa Picault had been suspended for three games for something he said in a closed-door scrimmage two weeks earlier?

Whether the two additional game suspensions handed out this season — Fabián was also fined — were the right decision or not can be argued from both sides.

I personally think Wagner deserved the additional suspension more than Fabián, who was slid into by Johnny Russell and caught the Sporting Kansas City player with his spikes on his way down. The ruling against Fabian was more subjective because you have to assume Marco’s intent was to hurt Russell, which is impossible to prove or disprove.

Wagner’s tackle was bad all the way around and a pretty straight forward decision between whether one game was enough of a punishment or not.

But so too was Wayne Rooney’s, which is where the inconsistency of the Disciplinary Committee is laid bare.

Like Wagner, the referee needed VAR to confirm the red, but for whatever reason the Disciplinary Committee that decided one game was enough of a punishment for Rooney did just the opposite with Wagner.

This is also the same committee that let Reto Ziegler completely get away with his kick out of Fafa Picault while he was on the ground in the Union’s 2-1 win over FC Dallas in early April. And again, the same committee that felt a balled kicked directly into the stands by Kaku that would have landed him in jail for manslaughter if it had been a small child sitting in the first row only warranted two additional games.

While a common refrain from Philadelphia Union fans is that this is further proof of “no one likes us we don’t care” it’s probably not the case that someone on the Disciplinary Committee has a specific vendetta against the Union. But when the league commissioner is weighing in on how long Kaku should be suspended and one of the marquee players is getting less of a punishment for doing the same thing that a significantly lesser known German import gets it’s hard not to cry foul.