Peter Fisher Chicago, Ill. There has been discussion on the Fire strand between Fire and Burn supporters about the nature and consequences of the physical play and intimidation, as evidenced in the Oct. 23 playoff game. The level and nature of the hacking, elbowing and gouging seems to be worse than ever, and worse than evidenced by what we see on television from other leagues around the world. What is your thinking about the continuing issue of "professional fouls" in the future of MLS? Ridge Mahoney:Peter, I disagree. One rough game in a playoff series does not mean MLS is more brutal than other leagues. And "professional fouls" and rough play are not necessarily one and the same. Italian players have long been renowned for sly ankle trips that aren't all that rough, but are certainly a tactical ploy. The tacklers in Spain, England, Italy, Scotland, Portugal and Germany are tougher than most MLS defenders, and no less inclined to also resort to deliberate fouling. Stricter FIFA statutes regarding rough and tactical fouling have helped, and most leagues are cleaner than they were in the 1970s and 1980s. Brazilian league games sometimes degenerate into free-for-alls, so rampant is incessant, cynical fouling. Argentine games have their share of elbows, high tackles, and sendings-off as well. I can't say that MLS is devolving into a thugs' league. The league has issued numerous directives to cut down on these types of fouls, and although the enforcement by referees and interpretations thereof are inconsistent, MLS is far from a den of brutes. (If you have a question for a Soccer America Magazine editor, click "Q&A with SA Editors" in the left column of the home page under "Interactive.")
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