The big story in MLS this week is Real Salt Lake’s quest to win the CONCACAF Champions League title and become the first team from the league to advance to the Club World Cup. Wednesday’s finale against Monterrey at Rio Tinto Stadium is one of the most anticipated moments in MLS’s 15-year history, no question.

There is a dark side this week, though. While the league galvanizes behind RSL, it faces the grim task of responding to horrible long-term injuries to two dynamic players: FC Dallas midfielder David Ferreira, the 2010 MLS most valuable player, and Seattle Sounders winger Steve Zakuani.

Ferreira suffered two fractures in his right ankle on a challenge by Vancouver’s Jonathan Leathers. Zakuani had his tibia and fibula shattered by Colorado’s Brian Mullan. No foul or card was issued on the Leathers tackle; Mullan’s actions were far worse and resulted in a red card. Did he intend to break Zakuani’s leg? No. Was he retaliating for no foul called a moment earlier? Yes. Did he go in recklessly? Absolutely.

Did he make matters worse with his postgame comments? Sadly, yes.

“It’s a tackle that I’ve done hundreds of times and would probably do again. I had no intention of hurting him. It’s a freak, freak thing, and I apologize.”

The longest suspension in league history was 10 matches (nine, plus the automatic one for a red card) given to Ricardo Clark in 2007 for intentionally kicking a fallen Carlos Ruiz.

Mullan is facing an extended suspension and fine. As for Leathers, it’s not a clear-cut case.

To read about the MLS process in determining further penalties.....

The MLS Disciplinary Committee has five members, none of whom are identified to the general public in order to avoid outside influence, a league spokesman said.

They are three former MLS players (one of whom is appointed by the players’ union), one former MLS coach and a former MLS referee.

Nelson Rodriguez, the league’s executive vice president of competition and game operations, oversees the committee, and when necessary, speaks on its behalf. He does not have a direct role in rulings.

The committee is expected to discuss last weekend’s two incidents today and tomorrow. An announcement could come Tuesday, but Wednesday seems more likely.

From the league’s guidelines:

“Where the referee sees an incident and issues a red card, the Committee may review the play for further disciplinary action, over and above the mandatory suspension and fine. The Committee will add suspensions and/or fines over and above the mandatory one game suspension for those offenses the Committee deems to be of an egregious or reckless nature, or where the Committee believes it must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game, including in particular but without limitation to contact above the shoulders through the dangerous use of elbows, forearms or fists.”

We await the committee’s rulings.....