In an apparent effort to both remain consistent and show seriousness for the league's publicly stated stance, MLS Commissioner Don Garber suspended Marc Burch three games, fined him an undisclosed amount and mandated he attend additional sensitivity training after the Seattle Sounders left back was caught by TV cameras using a gay slur during Thursday's game.
"Major League Soccer has a zero tolerance policy in response to this type of behavior from its players or staff," Garber said in a statement. "While I understand and believe that Mr. Burch is remorseful, Major League Soccer is committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect."
The decision to suspend Burch effectively means his season is over, as the suspension would last all the way through a potential MLS Cup final. If the Sounders are eliminated before then, he'll be forced to miss the first game of the 2013 season.
Presumably, the Sounders were aware of the possible suspension before it was handed down, but there was likely some sort of Players' Union appeal that delayed the decision.
The Sounders had been holding out some hope that the league would show Burch some leniency following his forthright apology that was issued the morning after the game. That doesn't appear to have happened, as Burch was given an identical punishment to Colin Clarke when the Houston Dynamo player used the same language toward a ball boy during their game against the Sounders on March 23.
Without Burch and likely without injured left back Leo Gonzalez for at least one more game, the Sounders have several less than ideal options. Zach Scott is the only regular on the roster with any real experience on the position, but he only played one CONCACAF Champions League game there this year and hasn't played the position with any regularity since 2009. The other option would be putting Brad Evans there, but he's not really a defender to begin with and has not played left back during his time with the Sounders.