SANDY — Real Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson doesn't believe it's a coincidence that Javier Morales ended up with a broken leg. He believes the incident is a product of the way opponents play against Real Salt Lake.
"(Morales is) a guy everybody circles before they play us, and now they don't have to anymore," said Johnson.
It's called persistent infringement, and Johnson believes it's what ultimately caused his midfield teammate to be hacked down for potentially the rest of the 2011 season.
Every preseason Major League Soccer shows its players a points-of-emphasis video. This year's video had a segment on persistent infringement, and how the league was going to enforce excessive fouling on the same player. Johnson said the example in the video showed Morales being fouled numerous times in a game against Philadelphia last year, without a yellow card ever being shown.
In all, Morales was fouled 76 times last year, many of them intentional as teams tried to slow down Real Salt Lake's most creative player. Dallas midfielder David Ferreira — the league's MVP — was fouled 84 times last year.
Just two months into the 2011 MLS season, both are out with broken ankles.
"It's only a matter of time until one of those intentional fouls leads to a broken leg. Something needs to be done about that," said Johnson. "It's not a coincidence that's he's a guy in the video and now he's the guy with the broken leg."
Johnson said he respects the tough task that the MLS Disciplinary Committee undertakes, but he called the suspension levied on Chivas USA midfielder Marcos Mondaini a "slap on the wrist."
For his clumsy, ankle-breaking tackle on Morales, Mondaini was suspended a total of four games and fined a total of $1,500 on Thursday.
"For a tackle that's an intentional foul with zero percent chance of getting the ball, personally I thought it was a little light from the precedent that had been set from the (Brian) Mullan challenge. I didn't think it deserved the same as Mullan's, but I think it deserved a little more than three games," said Johnson.
Colorado midfielder Brian Mullan was suspended 10 games for his leg-breaking tackle on Seattle midfielder Steve Zakuani last month.
In a statement from the disciplinary committee, it said the Mullan and Mondaini fouls were different. It said Mondaini was trying to prevent a scoring opportunity, while Mullan's foul appeared to be "driven by anger."
RSL coach Jason Kreis didn't want to comment on the suspension specifically, but did say he doesn't believe the refs are punishing persistent infringement whatsoever. That's why he believes it's up to the players to "treat each other, and treat the game and treat the sport in our country with more respect."
Johnson said that even if MLS had suspended Mondaini for 50 games, it wouldn't bring back Morales any sooner. "We're trying to move on and put it behind us," said Johnson.