COMMERCE CITY, CO - APRIL 22: Steve Zakuani of the Seattle Sounders FC is seen off the field after suffering a severe leg injury on a foul by Brian Mullan of the Colorado Rapids. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
Dear Brian Mullan,
I'm here to give you some advice even though you don't know me. I'm just a regular Seattle Sounders fan who happened to be watching the game yesterday. Right now you're probably a bit skeptical of any advice. Especially considering the firestorm of negative reactions your reckless challenge has provoked among the Sounders faithful.
However, I'm sincere in wanting to help you out. I've watched plenty of Colorado Rapids games and you've never struck me as a particularly dirty player. You're not the recently retired Dema Kovalenko. Sigi Schmid defended you in the post-game interviews and I'm inclined to take him at his word:
"I've coached Brian Mullan. He's an aggressive player. No player goes into a tackle like that trying to hurt a player like that deliberately. He's an aggressive player and it happens."
So, I was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. But your post game interview is not helping me tap into my inner wellspring of forgiveness on the Easter weekend. I spent a little time in DC during my career and you gave what is often called the "non-apology apology." You defended your actions without ever taking responsibility for the injury you caused.
I'm sorry, but saying that "It was never my intention to injure him in the least" doesn't cut it.
Even worse is the part where you say it was "a tackle that I've done hundreds of times and would probably do again". There is no way to defend the challenge you committed. You came in studs up with both feet. It's a challenge that has no place in the game of soccer. You're a veteran and should know better.
Now for some cold hard truth. You're a good player and played on some good teams. You've helped your teams win five MLS Cups. In your younger days you earned a few caps with the national team. What you haven't been is a star. You're not Thierry Henry. The league is not going to bend its rules for you like they've done for David Beckham. You've just ended the season of an up-and-coming star in a vibrant and cash rich soccer market. Even worse...you've angered probably the most vocal fan-base in MLS. Right now they're emailing the league office and calling for your head.
When the league gets down considering your suspension these facts will be in the back of their mind. Publicly, they will never admit to outside pressure or bias influencing their decision. But we all know it happens in this league. They will be considering the many televised games on the Sounders schedule. Games where Sounders fans can make their displeasure known through signs and chants. You need to start calming down the situation. Not only because it's the right thing to do, but because it's the smart thing to do.
Sounders fans are pissed at what happened to Steve Zakuani. He's an incredible player and, more importantly, an incredible human being who has a long, long recovery process ahead of him. We're also pissed that you're showing limited remorse and are even indicating you would make that same reckless tackle again. There is nothing you can do about us being angry about Zakuani's injury. But there is something you can do about our perception of you as a soccer player and a human being.
So, here's where the advice comes in. Get to a microphone as soon as possible and publicly apologize to Zakuani. Make it clear you own up to the injury you caused and won't do the same in the future. The longer you wait the worse the blow-back from this whole thing is going to be.