FC Dallas played an ineligible player in a 0-0 draw with Orlando City on Saturday. MLS said on Friday the FC Dallas punishment would be a mere slap on the wrist, allowing the team to keep the point it earned. The league fined FC Dallas $75,000 in General Allocation Money and an additional $25,000 for the roster violation.
In Saturday’s match, Michael Barrios was a late scratch from the starting lineup due to a minor injury. He was placed on the substitutes list even though rules state if a player is removed from the officially announced starting lineup he is ineligible to play in the ensuing match. In the 84th minute, Barrios entered the game and helped his team hold on for a vital point in the tight MLS playoff races.
FIFA rules state such a roster move is against the rules, however it is up to individual leagues to determine the punishment. MLS could have forced FC Dallas to forfeit the match, giving Orlando City all three points, which would give the Lions a much greater chance to make the playoffs trailing the sixth seed by two points instead of four. FC Dallas would have gone from a three-way tie for sixth to eighth place
In the end, MLS opted to go for a light punishment for breaking the rules because it judged the referees who allowed the violation were also at fault for allowing Barrios on the roster after the change.
“The referee crew’s administrative error and decision to place Michael Barrios on the official match roster was carefully considered while making the decision to sanction FC Dallas for this rule violation,” MLS deputy commissioner Mark Abbott said on the MLS website. “However, all of our clubs are aware of game day roster rules and FC Dallas should have removed Barrios from the official match roster.”
By giving FC Dallas a simple fine instead of costing the team points, the club essentially got away with cheating as the punishment won’t really affect the team until next season. However, it’s unlikely this is a precedent that will have any ramifications; in the future referees are unlikely to allow a late lineup scratch to appear on the substitutes list.
And while rules are rules, this was a pretty minor offense. FC Dallas played a player for about seven minutes who until a few minutes before the match was going to play the entire game. It’s not like the team played someone who wasn’t on the roster or was ineligible for another reason.
It was all bureaucratic, and in the end, an MLS-y punishment is fitting.