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Will MLS reduce Ricardo Clark suspension?
by Ridge Mahoney, October 23rd, 2007 7AM

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[VIDEO] Houston is awaiting word from the league office regarding its appeal of the nine-game suspension meted out to midfielder Ricardo Clark for kicking Carlos Ruiz as he lay on the ground in a Sept. 30 match. Commissioner Don Garber reviewed numerous incidents, including the six-game suspensions handed out to Thomas Ravelli in 1998, Andy Herron in 2005, and Dario Sala last year in making his decision.

Click HERE for video of Clark's attack

He also reviewed such rulings in foreign leagues as Roy Keane's violent tackle on Alf-Inge-Halaand (eight games) and Michael Ball's stomp on Cristiano Ronaldo's chest (three games).

MLS conducted offseason meetings earlier this year to review and explain disciplinary decisions with players, some of whom told the league they felt Sala's suspension was too lenient. Sala punched Hunter Freeman and Jovan Kirovski as they celebrated a 5-4 Colorado playoff win over Dallas last November.

Last year, Clark received an additional fine of $400, tacked onto the standard $100 incurred for a caution, after the league reviewed one of two yellows he received in the playoffs. The two cautions ruled him out of MLS Cup, which Houston won on penalties after it tied the Revs, 1-1, in regulation and overtime.

The record NFL suspension for an on-field incident is five games, imposed on Tennessee defensive tackle John Haynsworth last year for stepping on the face of Dallas lineman Andre Gurode, who had lost his helmet in a pileup and was laying unprotected on the ground.

Gurode needed 30 stitches and plastic surgery to repair the damage. The NHL handed out its longest game-related suspension, 25 games, Oct. 13 to Philadelphia Flyer Jesse Boulerice for smashing his stick against Toronto Maple Leaf Ryan Kesler.

The NFL regular season is 16 games for each team, so Haynsworth's suspension is about one-third of the season (32 percent). NHL teams play 80 games, not counting playoffs, so Boulerice will miss about 31 percent of the season.

Clark's nine-gamer is closer to one-quarter (9 of 34, 26 percent) of MLS matches, including four possible playoff games, in the 2007 season. But the suspension does not include international club matches, so presumably Clark can play in the CONCACAF Champions Cup next year if Houston qualifies.

Garber could cut the suspension by two games and still keep Clark out for the rest of the season, including MLS Cup, if Houston gets that far. Or he could simply rule him out for the rest of the season, regardless of the number of games Houston plays.

Or he can keep the suspension and fine ($10,000) the way it is, which - according to a source at U.S. Soccer - could keep Clark out of the national team for nearly six months.

Technically, Clark is eligible to play for the U.S. while under suspension by MLS, but U.S. Soccer will honor the league's action.

And Coach Bob Bradley, already well stocked with central midfielders in Pablo Mastroeni, Michael Bradley, Benny Feilhaber, Ben Olsen, Kyle Beckerman, and impressive debutant Maurice Edu and not a fan of unruly play, won't regard Clark's loss of control lightly.

National team camps that will include players being considered for the Olympic team are scheduled for December and January in California and Florida. The USA plays Sweden Jan. 19 at Home Depot Center, and a game against Brazil in February or March is being discussed.



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