Columbus Crew SC coach Gregg Berhalter asked why MLS suspended his midfielder Cristian Martinez for two games for slapping an opponent, while LA Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic only got one.
Martinez reached out to strike Sporting Kansas City’s Seth Sinovic in the second half of Sunday’s goalless draw in a play that went unseen by the match official.
The league has yet to announce a penalty, but Berhalter told the Columbus Dispatch that the league told him Martinez would face a two-game ban.
Berhalter said he was “disappointed” by the decision in the wakes of two similar incidents in MLS — when Ibrahimovic recently slapped Montreal’s Michael Petrasso, and Seattle’s Kelvin Leerdam struck the Impact’s Daniel Lovitz.
“If Zlatan gets one game and Leerdam gets one game for similar actions, it’s hard for me to understand how Cristian gets two games, but we accept the decision and we don’t condone behavior like that at all,” Berhalter told the newspaper. “Cristian wasn’t proud of it and he doesn’t stand for it and we move on. That’s part of it.”
Unbelievable. Cristian Martínez clearly slapped Seth Sinovic in the face off-the-ball, but Robert Sibiga didn’t even go over to Video Review monitor and there was no card given. Far more of an obvious red card than many in #MLS, and yet nothing? #SKCvCLB #SportingKC #CrewSC #VAR pic.twitter.com/KgtwyCT9Zl
— Jason Foster (@JogaBonito_USA) May 27, 2018
Ibrahimovic received his first red card since his high-profile move to MLS when he reacted to Petrasso stepping on his foot on May 21.
The dismissal earned the Swede an automatic one-game suspension that he served last week in a 1-0 win over San Jose, but the league never announced further punishment and Ibrahimovic he will return to the lineup on Wednesday night against FC Dallas.
Berhalter said he wasn’t told why Martinez was punished more severely than in the prior slapping incidents.
“It was communicated to me in a way that the person couldn’t explain it. The person was at just as much of a loss as we are why this all of a sudden would warrant more games,” Berhalter said.
“Again, the inconsistency of this should be addressed but we accept the punishment. We don’t condone that and I would probably be happy if everyone got two games and then we don’t have something like that involved in our games.”
Martinez was left off of Panama’s final World Cup squad. The 21-year-old had been named to the preliminary 35-man squad but had always been a longshot to make the final 23-man list.
Also on Wednesday, MLS’s disciplinary committee issued a two-game suspension to Houston Dynamo defender Alejandro Fuenmayor for a tackle against New York City FC for which he was only shown a yellow card.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Fire won an appeal against midfielder Mo Adams’ suspension following a red card against Orlando City last week and will be available on Wednesday night against Philadelphia.
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