Commerce City, Colo. (April 22, 2011) - A tearful Brian Mullan stood inside the Rapids locker room as his teammates walked in following the 1-0 loss to the Seattle Sounders. One by one the Rapids players approached him, hugged him, and tried to comfort him.
In the third minute of the match, Mullan went in hard on a challenge on Seattle's Steve Zakuani near the midfield sideline. Mullan was shown a straight red card, and Zakuani was stretchered off the field and taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Although many could see what happened, it was confirmed at the hospital that Zakuani sustained two broken bones in his right leg.
“I’m sorry for Steve (Zakuani)," said Mullan after the game, eyes still red. "It was never my intention to injure him in the least. I had no intention of hurting him. It’s a freak, freak thing, and I apologize and wish Steve a speedy recovery.”
It was the first red card Mullan has received in five years, his last coming in 2006 when he was with the Houston Dynamo.
“A guy of his character, I don’t think there’s any player in this league that for a second would think that Brian would egregiously attempt to hurt anyone," said Rapids captain Pablo Mastroeni. "He’s a classy individual and has proven that over a great career. I think that even (Steve) Zakuani is a guy that would understand that Brian is a guy that plays hard all the time, and it was an unfortunate incident."
An injury as horrific as the one to Zakuani affects not only the players involved in the challenge, but all other players on the field - from both teams.
“It’s a major blow for the guys psychologically to try to refocus on the game and try to not talk about it at halftime," said Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid. "Nobody really mentioned it but you definitely felt it hanging in the air.”
"An injury like that plays on players minds when they carry on," said Colorado head coach Gary Smith. "I think it took the wind out of everybody’s sails.
Schmid and Seattle defender James Riley also understand that Mullan had no intent on causing harm.
"I’ve coached Brian Mullan," said Schmid, who coached Mullan with the LA Galaxy. "He’s an aggressive player. No player goes into a tackle like that trying to hurt a player. He’s an aggressive player and it happens.”
"I know Brian Mullan – I’ve been playing against him for the past seven years, he’s a Colorado guy," said Riley, who is from Colorado Springs. "He’s full throttle and he’s a great guy. It was an unfortunate tackle. It looked like a hard tackle before I even got over there and to have what happened to Stevey is obviously unfortunate.”
Mullan's ejection means he'll miss at least the Rapids next match, but all red cards are also reviewed by the MLS Disciplinary Committee. Colorado's next game is on Saturday, April 30 against the Chicago Fire at Dick's Sporting Goods Park.