Two tackles, four broken bones, and two of Major League Soccer's most important players are facing significant time away.
It was a dire weekend in Major League Soccer, with Seattle's Steve Zakuani, the league's premier winger, and FC Dallas' David Ferreira, the reigning MLS MVP, suffering major injuries that could cripple their clubs.
Zakuani's broken leg has received more attention -- it came in a ghastlier confrontation, and on a national telecast -- but Ferreira's is more damaging.
Zakuani's right leg was demolished in a rash, brutal tackle by Colorado's Brian Mullan's just moments into Friday's game. Zakuani, one of MLS's most explosive and exciting talents, underwent emergency surgery to repair a broken tibia and fibula, remained hospitalized for four days and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.
Mullan, one of MLS's most aggressive midfielder (but in no way considered dirty) leapt into Zakuani's leg in frustration after he didn't draw a foul moments earlier. As Zakuani flew in the air, replays showed, his lower right leg flopping unnaturally.
Mullan, who was red-carded, first called it a "tackle that I’ve done hundreds of times and would probably do again," then backtracked after seeing the replay and withstanding withering criticism from all sides. He pulled out of training with the Rapids this week, too distraught to take the field, and is awaiting news of punishment, expected sometime Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Mullan released an official statement through his agent: "It is with regret that my tackle resulted in the injury of Steve, and I am deeply sorry to Steve and all those impacted by his injury."
The speedy, skillful Zakuani's absence takes away the most devastating dimension of the Sounders' multifaceted attack. They're a different team without the Congolese-born, London-raised, Akron-educated midfielder, but Ferreira's injury -- two fractured bones in his right ankle -- ought to be more costly to FC Dallas.
Ferreira, a Colombian forward/playmaker who was hurt on a challenge by Vancouver defender Jonathan Leathers -- no foul was called -- makes everything click for the Hoops' attack, and there's nobody available who can do what he does. The Hoops will have to alter how they attack more so than Seattle, which will rely more on Designated Player Fredy Montero and rising forward O'Brian White.
This week's rankings:
1. REAL SALT LAKE (4-0-0, 12 points), Last week: 1
Week 6: Idle in league after the 2-2 midweek draw at Monterrey to prepare for the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final
Remark: Win over Monterrey, CCL title would be MLS's greatest result
Trophies: MLS Cup 2009
Next: Wednesday vs. Monterrey (Mexico) in second leg of the Champions League final, 7 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel); Saturday at Portland, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
2. GALAXY (4-1-3, 15 points), Last week: 2
Week 6: Landon Donovan ends 11-game goal skid, nets two in 3-0 romp over Portland
Remark: Sure they were spotted two goals, but dominance was complete
Trophies: MLS Cup 2002, 2005; CONCACAF Champions Cup 2000, MLS Supporters' Shield 1998, 2002, 2010, U.S. Open Cup 2001, 2005
Next: Sunday at FC Dallas, 4 p.m. (Galavision)
3. NEW YORK RED BULLS (3-1-2, 11 points), Last week: 3
Week 6: Thierry Henry scores two more in 4-0 rout at D.C. United
Remark: If Red Bulls get rolling, it could be over soon
Trophies: Nothing above conference titles
Next: Saturday vs. Sporting Kansas City, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
4. SEATTLE SOUNDERS (2-2-3, 9 points), Last week: 6
Week 6: Fredy Montero scores for the first time since Sept. 1 in 1-0 win at Colorado
Remark: Steve Zakuani done for 2011? Shattered leg might sink Sounders
Trophies: U.S. Open Cup 2009, 2010, A-League 1995, 1996; USL First Division 2005, 2007
Next: Saturday vs. Toronto FC, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
5. COLORADO RAPIDS (3-3-0, 9 points), Last week: 4
Week 6: Early red card cost Rapids in 1-0 loss to Seattle, multigame suspension to follow
Remark: Brian Mullan too distraught to train after breaking Zakuani's leg, coach says he doesn't “think he is going to be ready for quite a while.”
Trophies: MLS Cup 2010
Next: Saturday vs. Chicago, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
6. PHILADELPHIA UNION (3-1-1, 10 points), Last week: 7
Week 6: Idle
Remark: Nobody scores against them, but they're not finding the net, either.
Next: Saturday vs. San Jose, 1 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
7. HOUSTON DYNAMO (2-1-3, 9 points), Last week: 5
Week 6: Bobby Boswell pulls Dynamo to 1-1 draw at Chicago
Remark: Three of the last four goals have been scored by defenders, two of them by Boswell
Trophies: MLS Cup 2006, 2007, plus MLS Cup 2001, 2003, and MLS Supporters' Shield 2006 before move from San Jose
Next: Friday vs. D.C. United, 5:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)
8. FC DALLAS (2-3-1, 7 points), Last week: 9
Week 6: Eric Avila's 83rd-minute goal lifts Hoops, 2-1, at Vancouver
Remark: David Ferreira's broken ankle changes everything for Hoops
Trophies: U.S. Open Cup 1997
Next: Sunday vs. Galaxy, 4 p.m. (Galavision)
9. COLUMBUS CREW (2-1-3, 9 points), Last week: 8
Week 6: Edgar Renteria takes advantage of poor red card, gives Crew 1-1 draw at Toronto
Remark: How much will addition of 20-year-old Argentine midfielder Santiago Prim help?
Trophies: MLS Cup 2008; MLS Supporters' Shield 2004, 2008, 2009; U.S. Open Cup 2002
Next: Saturday vs. Vancouver, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
10. NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION (2-2-3, 9 points), Last week: 13
Week 6: Shalrie Joseph, Rajko Lekic rally Revs to 3-2 win over Sporting Kansas City; Kheli Dube scores two to start 3-2 U.S. Open Cup qualifying win over D.C. United
Remark: Benny Feilhaber's impact is immediate, impressive
Trophies: U.S. Open Cup 2007, SuperLiga 2008
Next: Saturday at Chivas USA, at Home Depot Center, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22)
11. SPORTING KANSAS CITY (1-3-1, 4 points), Last week: 10
Week 6: Lawndale's Kei Kamara scores twice, but K.C. can't hold on in 3-2 loss at New England
Remark: Aurelien Collin sees red in debut; that's three losses with red cards
Trophies: MLS Cup 2000; MLS Supporters' Shield 2000; U.S. Open Cup 2004
Next: Saturday at New York, 4:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
12. CHIVAS USA (1-2-3, 6 points), Last week: 17
Week 6: Mariano Trujillo in right place to deliver 2-1 victory at San Jose
Remark: Alejandro Moreno swears he got the slightest of touches to Heath Pearce's free kick, the camera just missed it
Next: Saturday vs. New England, 7:30 p.m. (Fox Sports West and KWHY/Channel 22)
13. SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES (1-3-2, 5 points), Last week: 11
Week 6: Chris Wondolowski nets his third, Quakes can't hold off Chivas USA in 2-1 defeat
Remark: Frank Yallop rips into charges after 2-1 loss to Chivas, players-only meeting follows
Trophies: Inherited MLS Cup 2001, 2003, and MLS Supporters' Shield 2006 from previous version when Quakes returned in 2008
Next: Saturday at Philadelphia, 1 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick), Tuesday at Portland in a U.S. Open Cup qualifier, 7:30 p.m.
14. D.C. UNITED (2-3-1, 7 points), Last week: 12
Week 6: Overwhelmed, 4-0, by New York; Branko Boskovic's pair too late in 3-2 U.S. Open Cup qualifying loss to New England
Remark: Boskovic injury against New England won't help in crucial game with Dynamo, two more next week
Trophies: MLS Cup 1996, 1997, 1999, 2004; CONCACAF Champions Cup 1998; MLS Supporters' Shield 1997, 1999, 2006, 2007; U.S. Open Cup 1996, 2008; CONCACAF Giants Cup 2001; Copa Interamericana 1998
Next: Friday at Houston, 5:30 p.m. (Fox Soccer Channel)
15. CHICAGO FIRE (1-3-2, 5 points), Last week: 14
Week 6: Diego Chaves' fourth of the season a nice start to a 1-1 draw with Houston
Remark: Dominic Oduro hits crossbar against former team, Fire's finishing woes attack again
Trophies: MLS Cup 1998; MLS Supporters' Shield 2003; U.S. Open Cup 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006
Next: Saturday at Colorado, 6 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
16. VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (1-3-3, 6 points), Last week: 16
Week 6: Alain Rochat's opener won't stand up in 2-1 loss to FC Dallas
Remark: Eric Hassli's fifth yellow card = three suspensions in five appearances
Trophies: USL First Division 2006, 2008, Canadian Soccer League 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991; North American Club Championship 1990
Next: Wednesday at Montreal Impact in Canadian Championship semifinal first leg, 5 p.m.; Saturday vs. FC Dallas, 4 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)
17. PORTLAND TIMBERS (2-3-1, 7 points), Last week: 15
Week 6: Two early missed calls bury Timbers in 3-0 loss to the Galaxy at HDC
Remark: Word around the league paints Portland as soft; Timbers happy to return home
Trophies: A-League 2004
Next: Saturday vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick), Tuesday vs. San Jose in U.S. Open Cup qualifier, 7:30 p.m.
18. TORONTO FC (1-2-4, 7 points), Last week: 18
Week 6: Tony Tchani red-carded for celebrating his goal with fans, Reds settle for 1-1 draw with Columbus
Remark: Road to third straight CONCACAF Champions League appearance begins in Alberta
Trophies: Canadian Championship 2009, 2010
Next: Wednesday at FC Edmonton in Canadian Championship semifinal first leg, 5 p.m.; Saturday at Seattle, 7 p.m. (MLS Direct Kick)