Whitecaps FC's Christian Bolaños suspended for one match

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Image: Whitecaps FC / Facebook

The Vancouver Whitecaps will be without their prized veteran signing for Saturday’s match against Sporting Kansas City following a ruling by the MLS Disciplinary Committee (DisCo).

On Thursday afternoon, the DisCo announced Bolaños would receive a one-game suspension and an undisclosed fine following his tackle on Montreal Impact defender Laurent Ciman during Sunday’s season opener.

Here’s the incident:

Image: TSN

Image: TSN

I have two problems with this.

First, I find it concerning that an independent panel came to the conclusion that the above tackle was egregious enough to have warranted a red card at the time and thus earn Bolaños a suspension now.

Yes, Bolaños is clearly not paying attention as he loses control of the ball, so that’s a definite yellow card for reckless play – no debate there. The FIFA Laws of the Game (“Law 12 – Fouls and Misconduct”, pg. 37-40) spells it out in plain text:

A direct free kick is awarded to the opposing team if a player commits any
of the following seven offences in a manner considered by the referee to be
careless, reckless or using excessive force:
• kicks or attempts to kick an opponent
• trips or attempts to trip an opponent
• jumps at an opponent
• charges an opponent
• strikes or attempts to strike an opponent
• pushes an opponent
• tackles an opponent

It’s definitely a foul, then. Considering it was certainly careless and reckless, a yellow card would also be appropriate. Now, the key point: does it rise to the level of a red card?

A player, substitute or substituted player is sent off if he commits any of the
following seven offences:
serious foul play
violent conduct
• spitting at an opponent or any other person
• denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity
by deliberately handling the ball (this does not apply to a goalkeeper within
his own penalty area)
• denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving
towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a
penalty kick
• using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
• receiving a second caution in the same match

It’s a problem – a very concerning problem – if the DisCo unanimously believes the above tackle rises to the level of “serious foul play” or “violent conduct” and results in Bolaños (or any other player) being suspended. We may be in for a rash of red cards this season if the threshold for red cards has been lowered as appears to be the case here.

My second problem: who fills in for Bolaños?

Is Kekuta Manneh fit enough to go the full 90′? Should Nicolas Mezquida see his first minutes of the season, if healthy? Does Pedro Morales go out wide, allowing another playmaker – say, Marco Bustos – to slot into the middle? If so, does that see Kianz Froese back on the bench in favour of the more defensive-minded Deybi Flores?

No matter who fills in, we saw the effects of chopping and changing Vancouver’s game-day roster ad infinitum last season. Flexibility was nice, but in exchange for consistency? Not so much.

Consistency, especially among forwards, was one of the main culprits behind the Whitecaps finding goals hard to come by late in 2015. Fingers crossed the ‘Caps aren’t set  back in that regard not even two games into the season.

Vancouver Whitecaps FC / Facebook

SEE ALSO: Whitecaps FC defender Christian Dean out 3-4 months with broken foot

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