Citing a tackle that was “reckless, egregrious and showed utter disregard for the safety of his opponent,” MLS has suspended Colorado midfielder Brian Mullan an additional nine matches — equaling the most severe penalty in league history.

Mullan’s challenge broke Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani’s tibia and fibula in the third minute of the Rapids’ game against the Sounders last week. Mullan was also fined $5,000. Because he received a red card on the play, resulting in an automatic one-game suspension, he will miss 10 games overall.

In 2007, Houston midfielder Ricardo Clark was suspended an additional nine games for violently kicking a fallen player.

For comments from MLS and Seattle.....

The five-man disciplinary committee “took several factors into account, the timing of the challenge, the location on the field, the moments immediately before the challenge where it is clear that Mullan is frustrated, and the severity of Zakuani’s injury,” said MLS executive Nelson Rodriguez, who oversees the committee.

“Before this season, MLS worked with all its playeres, coaches, referees and the two federations [U.S. and Canada] to develop, illustrate and discuss several key points of emphasis. One of those points is to protect the safety of the player on the ball and reduce or eliminate reckless and violent tackles. Mullan’s tackle is the type of play we need to eliminate from our game and the level of disciplineis consistent with our efforts to do so.”

From Sounders General Manager Adrian Hanauer: “The commissioner has stated his intention to be more protective of dynamic, attacking players. Hopefully this suspension is a step in the right direction. However, the harsh reality of this situation is that no length of suspension will bring back Steve to action any faster.”

Mullan isn’t eligible to return until late June. The Rapids will play at Seattle in mid-July.