1. Disciplinary Committee faces a tall task. There are no stronger buzz words in MLS these days than "disciplinary committee," with each week seemingly turned into a guessing game of "Who will be retroactively punished?"
As D.C. United defender Brandon McDonald, who returned to action Saturday after serving a one-game suspension, said this past week, "It's going on and on. Guys are joking around in the locker room that there might be a suspension every week."
The only thing is, it is far from a joke. After the most violent week in the 2012 season, the mostly anonymous MLS Disciplinary Committee has its hands full, as the weekend provided numerous instances of reckless challenges that endangered the safety of opponents.
No game will be looked at in more detail than the New York Red Bulls-San Jose Earthquakes encounter, and no play in that game will be scrutinized more than Red Bulls midfielder Rafa Marquez' NFL-style tackle and kick out on Shea Salinas. The incident, that happened inside the penalty area no less, went completely unnoticed by match officials but ended up breaking the San Jose Earthquakes winger's clavicle and should yield a multigame ban. That play overshadowed three other instances in that game alone that could merit discipline, including Marvin Chavez' flying scissor lunge from behind on Roy Miller, Thierry Henry's two-footed, studs-up challenge on Chris Wondolowski and Victor Bernardez' s apparently deliberate elbow to Kenny Cooper. Of the incidents, only Chavez' was punished with a card, which may be more of an indicator that MLS referees -- in this case Ricardo Salazar -- need to get a stronger grasp on the action and develop a better sense of when to let them play (i.e. how Kevin Stott handled the important Sporting Kansas City-Real Salt Lake tussle) and when to step in and be more of an enforcer.
Outside of Red Bull Arena, there were other instances that are worth a second look from the disciplinary committee. In New England, forward Saer Sene appeared to embellish after a McDonald elbow, something that certainly falls in line with past fines doled out to Seattle's Alvaro Fernandez and D.C.'s Danny Cruz. In Seattle, Brian Mullan's challenge from behind on Osvaldo Alonso late in Colorado's loss earned him a yellow card but could be seen as reckless and might be put under the microscope even more considering Alonso's stature in the league -- he's already been on the receiving end of one suspension-yielding tackle -- and Mullan's past against Seattle.
However many punishments get handed down this week, they will just be the latest round in the New MLS, one that is less about brutal physicality and is more concerned with cleaning up play on the field, no matter if it undermines the in-game officiating.
It is worth noting that there has yet to be an appeal of any of the new wave of suspensions. Considering that, according to comments made by commissioner Don Garber before the season, there is an unnamed representative from the MLS Players' Union on the disciplinary committee, that trend is likely to continue, as the MLSPU is typically involved in the appeals process. As a result key contributors to teams across MLS will keep learning the hard way that player safety trumps all.
"This is the new reality in our league, and sometimes it's going to hurt you, sometimes it's going to help you," D.C. coach Ben Olsen said.
2. Jackson acquisition key for FC Dallas. Sunday's transfer deadline came and went without any action, but one move a few days prior that flew a bit under the radar took place in Dallas, where the club recalled versatile Brazilian Jackson from his loan to Cruzeiro. Initially sent back to his native country because of personal reasons in January, Jackson was called back to Dallas with injuries taking their toll on the Western Conference contender, and his return could pay immense dividends.
Jackson was a key contributor all over the field for FCD last season, playing in 28 games and scoring four goals, and when it appeared that he was gone for the season it was considered a blow to Dallas' chances. Now, Jackson's suddenly an important piece to the puzzle. While he can play any position outside of goalkeeper, his assets are best used either as a fullback or on the wings in the midfield. Considering that Brek Shea could be absent for a month-long stretch when U.S. national team friendlies and World Cup qualifiers get going in a few weeks, Ricardo Villar is dealing with a foot strain, David Ferreira remains on the comeback trail and Fabian Castillo has been pushed higher up the field, Jackson's ability to fill various holes makes him an integral part of the FCD lineup as soon as he is fit to return to the field.
3. Galaxy stars align in victory. The Los Angeles Galaxy had three signature moments in their much-needed victory over the Portland Timbers, and it must have been a sight for sore Galaxy-fan eyes that the club's four most integral players had a hand in all of them.
Whether it was Robbie Keane skinning his defender and feeding Landon Donovan for the first-half equalizer, Juninho stepping up with what seemed like his first positive contribution of the season with the hustle play leading to his go-ahead goal or David Beckham's clinching wonderstrike, the Galaxy's attacking quality finally rose to the surface after a long dormant period.
The development could not have happened at a more integral time for the Galaxy, too, as a rough patch in the schedule awaits. Games at Colorado, at home against Dallas, at Seattle and a home tilt against the New York Red Bulls all take place in the upcoming three-week stretch, one that could go a long way in determining whether the Galaxy have the same mettle as the championship side of a year ago.
4. Mother Nature wins in Chicago. Neither the Houston Dynamo nor the Chicago Fire needed a break after coming off respective bye weeks -- two in Houston's case -- but Mother Nature provided that regardless, with lightning and storms forcing their Sunday night encounter to be halted after 65 minutes with the score knotted at 1-1.
The shortened draw played more into the Dynamo's favor, considering that the club was on the road without three starting midfielders (Brad Davis was nursing a calf injury, and Adam Moffat and Colin Clark were suspended) and that accruing another point before the opening of BBVA Compass Stadium next month is sufficient enough. Tell the Dynamo that entering the match under those circumstances they'd walk away with a draw, and they'd have taken it with ease.
The Fire, meanwhile, who set the league record for most draws in a season last year (16), could not have been thrilled with the premature stoppage. Considering the weakened state of the Dynamo's lineup and the way the game was unfolding, the Fire seemed more likely of the two to find the winner. Chicago, specifically Argentine playmaker Sebastian Grazzini, was more threatening going forward but was forced to settle instead. So much for the home-field advantage.
5. Team of the Week
Goalkeeper: Dan Kennedy (Chivas USA)
Defenders: Zach Scott (Seattle Sounders), Aurelien Collin (Sporting Kansas City), Heath Pearce (Chivas USA)
Midfielders: Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle Sounders), Nick DeLeon (D.C. United), Landon Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy), Brian Carroll (Philadelphia Union)
Forwards: Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Blas Perez (FC Dallas), Kenny Cooper (New York Red Bulls)