Amidst some serious controversy in the aftermath of a defining moment for Womens Professional Soccer, the league has come to what should be considered a fair and reasonable decision regarding the issue.
With a statement by WPS Commissioner Tonya Antonucci and the suspensions of Abby Wambach and Kia McNeil, the time has come to move on from this unfortunate incident and to get back to playing soccer.
But before we can do that, let us first review the decision making process for the situation in question.
In case for some crazy reason you've missed all of the commotion, St. Louis Athletica midfielder Daniela Alves Lima sustained two damaged knee ligaments and a cracked tibia as the result of a questionable slide tackle by the Washington Freedom's Abby Wambach.
As the first official to respond from the WPS, Chief Operating Officer Mary Harvey assured the public that the league "[was] carefully reviewing the play, just as [they were] reviewing other physical plays and yellow cards issued over the weekend." She noted that "the review must play out properly and thoroughly before any judgments can be made."
On Wednesday, results of the League Disciplinary Committee's review concluded that "In the Committee’s collective opinion, none of [on-field incidents in the Washington-St.Louis game] met the very specific criteria for over-ruling the decisions of the game referee, and therefore further disciplinary measures were not imposed."
In addition to the review, the committee also acknowledged that "the Commissioner may independently exercise her discretion to further review the match and assess penalties based upon conduct that is detrimental to the best interests of WPS, the integrity of its matches and the protection of its Players. The Commissioner has elected to and is in the process of reviewing the circumstances of the Freedom-Athletica match, and it is expected that she will announce the results of her review by the end of business on Thursday, May 7th."
So, in comes Thursday. After a lengthy review process, Commisioner Tonya Antonucci made the decision to suspend a player from both the Washington Freedom and the St. Louis Athletica with reasonable justification for each.
For Athletica center-back Kia McNeil, her "persistent egregious conduct toward an opposing player" contributes to a one game suspension while the Freedom's Wambach faces the same penalty "based upon a tackle in the 80th minute that was reckless and resulted in a potentially season-ending injury of an opposing player."
The suspensions will stand for the next WPS game possible in which each player is present with the team and physically able and to play.
Yes, McNeil was an enforcer throughout much of the game and she had a few questionable tackles here and there. It is a positive move that the WPS drew the line on a repeated disregard to play the ball. It appears McNeil's play heightened the overall game tension, so the league's decision to suspend her is understandable.
It is unfortunate that the Athletica will miss a key part of its defensive unit this week, but the Commissioner is right in her thoughts that players have the responsibility to conduct themselves in a certain manner on the pitch. McNeil also picked up a yellow card for persistent infringement in Week Five against L.A. No to say that as a player, McNeil constantly drills opponents, but it is to say that at some point enough has to be enough.
We all knew that someone would be made the example in this situation. I was pretty confident that it would only be Wambach, but I do find it fair McNeil will face some consequences.
After making the decision to suspend players, Commissioner Antonucci made this statement:
"I elected to review the circumstances of the Freedom-Athletica match out of concern that the nature of play, if left unchecked, could lead to circumstances in future games that might pose a threat to the safety of the players and to the integrity of the league. In addition to the issuance of the discipline in the Decision above, I have directed that the circumstances of this match be brought to the attention of the US Soccer Federation, which provides referee assignments for WPS matches, and that serious consideration be given to avoiding these circumstances when making future referee assignments."
In the intial days following the incident, I felt that suspensions were going a bit far. However, afyer taking a few days to analyze the situation in its entirety, I agree 100 percent with the above mentioned Decision.
If an incident such as this goes undisciplined or unaddressed, it leaves the door open for a more severe incident to happen in the future.Thankfully, the WPS does well in choosing to draw the line early.
The league has made a strong statement in regards which types of behavior it will not tolerate. I agree with that standard and appreciate that the WPS will uphold the integrity of the game. I also appreciate the fact that the Commissioner does not allow the game's poor officiating to go unnoticed.
The WPS has survived its first controversy with class, and I commend the Commissioner and all parties involved for taking the necessary steps to come to a just decision. Although it took nearly the entire week to reach the final conclusion, at least the process yielded a positive end result.
Again, it is very unfortunate that two outstanding players will miss competition, but it is even more unfortunate that their irresponsibility contributed to such a tragic injury.
How do you think the WPS handled this situation? Do you think that a single game suspension for Wambach and McNeil was the right thing to do? Share your thoughts below.