Questions, answers about DeRo suspension

D.C. United captain Dwayne De Rosario was suspended for the first two regular season matches Friday for head-butting Philadelphia’s Danny Cruz during the second half of the preseason finale last weekend.

Some answers to your questions about the situation:

Q. How did MLS’s disciplinary committee reach this decision?

A. According to MLS executive vice president Nelson Rodriguez, the five-member committee interviewed several eyewitnesses, including “some independent and impartial, who unequivocally saw De Rosario head-butt Cruz.” The behavior was “completely unrelated to soccer. There is no place for that kind of behavior in any game.”

The match was not televised or streamed online, so the committee relied strictly on eyewitness accounts. Referee Chris Penso had a clear view of the incident, hence the red card, and was questioned by the committee in recent days.

Q. Why did MLS wait until the day before the match to announce the suspension?

A. As policy, agreed upon by the league and the players’ union, suspensions are not made public until the entire process is exhausted. That means the league will not issue a statement until a possible appeal is heard. In this case, the committee reached its decision two or three days ago and notified United. Commissioner Don Garber heard the appeal Thursday. In other words, United was not taken by surprise when the official announcement was made early Friday morning. The club was aware De Rosario would probably miss two matches. It held out faint hope Garber would reduce the penalty to one game.

Q. Philadelphia goalkeeper Zac MacMath was also red-carded in the game. And Toronto FC’s Darren O’Dea was sent off in the match immediately following the United-Union meeting in Orlando. How come they weren’t suspended?

A. De Rosario’s suspension was not tied to the red card, per se. It was due to the egregious nature of his actions. A red card in the final preseason game does not carry over into the regular season. However, the MLS disciplinary committee is within its right to review violent conduct and impose a suspension. MacMath was ejected for taking down Lionard Pajoy on a breakaway (non-violent). O’Dea was involved in a physical altercation, reportedly slapping or punching a Kansas City player. The committee did review the play — again, without the use of video replay — and concluded, according to Rodriguez, the actions were not egregious and no additional disciplinary action was warranted.

Q. What other preseason incidents were reviewed?

A. MLS looked into Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso‘s tackle on New England’s Chris Tierney three weeks ago in Arizona, and again determined no penalty was necessary.

Q. Has MLS ever suspended a player for regular season games after an incident in preseason?

A. Yes. According to the MLS communications department, United’s Hristo Stoitchkov received a two-game ban for a tackle that broke a college player’s leg in 2003. Kei Kamara, then with Houston, was suspended two matches in 2009 for inappropriate comments directed at an official. Two years later, Dallas’s Jair Benitez was docked one game for an in-game play.

Q. United Coach Ben Olsen called preseason “the wild, wild west” and expressed concern about safety, especially late in preseason when players are tired of being away from home and battling for roster spots. Does the league plan to address those issues?

A. Rodriguez: “We will have discussions with the technical committee to better monitor and regulate preseason.”

Q. When will DeRo make his 2013 debut?

A. March 16. 12:30 p.m. Red Bull Arena. Harrison, N.J. Televised by NBC (main network).

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff | March 1, 2013