Major League Soccer has suspended D.C. United star Dwayne De Rosario for the first two matches of the season and fined him an undisclosed amount for “violent conduct that endangered the safety of his opponent” in the preseason finale last weekend.
De Rosario will miss Saturday’s away match against the Houston Dynamo and the March 9 home opener against Real Salt Lake.
The league’s five-member disciplinary committee made the decision earlier this week and Commissioner Don Garber denied De Rosario’s appeal Thursday.
De Rosario had head-butted Philadelphia Union midfielder Danny Cruz early in the second half last Saturday at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic in Kissimmee, Fla.
After being grabbed from behind by Brian Carroll in an increasingly testy match, De Rosario turned and shoved the Philadelphia captain. Cruz, De Rosario’s former teammate in Washington, intervened. As other players converged, De Rosario headbutted Cruz on the nose. He received a red card.
“I would love to defend Dwayne or my players, but this one, I can’t necessarily do that,” United Coach Ben Olsen said before the team’s flight to Houston early Friday. “I just hope this is the last one we have to deal with because it affects us negatively and we have to clean it up.”
Olsen is particularly sensitive to suspension. In last year’s playoffs, Andy Najar was ejected for tossing the ball at the referee and banned three games overall (one automatically for receiving a red card and two additional by the disciplinary committee).
“These suspensions become a little bit of a bad reflection on not only the player, but the organization and myself and my staff,” Olsen said.
De Rosario has not commented on the incident.
Olsen said there is no friction between him and De Rosario, or the player and his teammates, about leaving the club short-handed. Everyone, he said, is moving on.
“Dwayne has been around long enough. It’s out of character for him,” Olsen said of a player who has received just two red cards in 324 regular season and playoff games. “I think he is disappointed in himself, I’m sure.”
Despite losing his most important player for two games, Olsen said he is encouraged by MLS’s approach to poor conduct in preseason.
“Preseason becomes the wild, wild west, particularly late in preseason,” he said. “I don’t want my attacking guys getting hammered time after time late in the preseason when guys are grumpy and want to get home. If you don’t [suspend players], it’s going to get worse and worse. Preseason needs to be cleaned up. They need to do what they are doing.
“It’s unfortunate one of our players is the guy they are using in cleaning up preseason, but in principle, I absolutely agree with preseason being cleaned up. It needs to happen — holding players accountable to the standards they expect in the regular season.”
A suspension for a preseason incident is not unprecedented. In 2003, for instance, United’s Hristo Stoitchkov missed the first two regular season games and was fined for a tackle that broke an American University player’s leg.