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McNeill's challenge deserved suspension

Atlanta Beat defender Kia McNeill was handed an additional two game suspension Wednesday by Women’s Professional Soccer for her 34th minute challenge on FC Gold Pride goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart in Saturday’s 4-0 loss to the Pride.

McNeill will serve the automatic one game suspension in Wednesday night’s match against the Chicago Red Stars.  That was already known after Mcneill received a red card for her challenge on Barnhart.  But the WPS Disciplinary Committee deemed the challenge to be reckless enough to hand down an additional suspension and there is no arguing with that decision.

Officially, McNeill was suspended for “use of excessive force.”  I do not find McNeill to be a dirty player by any means, but how could anybody possibly argue with the fact that her challenge was completely reckless?  It was a poorly-timed studs up challenge on a goalkeeper and she really had no right going for that ball.  Take a look for yourself at the video below (around minute 1:36):

Apparently, Atlanta goalkeepers Hope Solo and Malori Lofton-Malachi did not approve of the additional suspension to McNeill.  Here is what they had to say Wednesday on Twitter:


  • “What are we the legal system now?”
  • “Perhaps jail time too? An orange jumpsuit? The guillotine?”
  • “Trying to make an embarrassment out of people? Should I be laughing! I just don’t know anymore.”


  • “HER FACE/HEAD WAS PERMANENTLY DAMAGED after a late hit… def fair…”

Lofton-Malachi’s comment refers to a 24th minute incident in which FC Gold Pride forward Tiffeny Milbrett slid into a 50-50 ball and struck Atlanta defender Tina Ellertson in the face.  Ellertson was forced to leave the game at halftime with a swollen face.  In fairness, Milbrett immediately called for a trainer and it was clear that the foot-to-face contact was an honest mistake.  McNeill’s challenge also appeared to be a mistake, but all she did after striking Barnhart was sit there on the ground and wait for her fate to be determined.

Maybe there is an argument that Milbrett should have been given a yellow card for her challenge (which is not in the above video clip, but I have seen).  There is no question that McNeill’s challenge deserved a red card and a suspension.  I have to wonder how Solo and Lofton-Malachi would feel if someone like Rachel Buehler, for example, came in on them with a challenge like that.  Surely it would produce a different response.

7 Comments… read them below or post one
Chris said…
Ellertson is supposedly back for Sunday, so she’ll probably replace Nolin on the back line.
Jeff said…
As you mention that back line turbulence, Sunday’s projected starting line-up for Atlanta shows Larkin, Bishop, Nolin and Robinson across the back with Maron in goal.
beth said…
If this weren’t McNeill’s third suspension in two years, she likely would have just gotten the 1 game and been done with it. She was suspended last year for her persistent rough play against Wambach (in the infamous Daniela broken-leg game), and she was suspended earlier this year for a 90th minute tackle, also on Wambach. It is unfortunate what happened to Ellertson, and Milbrett definitely should have been carded…but McNeill needs to start acting like a captain and stop letting her emotions get the better of her on the field. We need her out there. The last thing this team needs is more turbulence in the back line.
Jeff said…
The Milbrett tackle was ugly, but she had much more of a chance at getting the ball. What was McNeill doing even challenging for that ball that was clearly just going into Barnhart’s hand? If the thought process is ‘McNeill was suspended further so Milbrett be given something,’ that’s fine. But, there McNeill’s suspension is justified (the community service is admittedly a random addition). Ellertson’s injury is very concerning, I just found Milbrett’s challenge to be on a ball that she could have won and unfortunately she caught Ellertson. McNeill’s challenge was just absurd.
Chris said…
“Maybe there is an argument that Milbrett should have been given a yellow card…” Give me a break. Millbrett slid studs-up into Ellertson’s face. Ellertson’s face when she came off the field was, for lack of a better term, misshapen because it was so swollen. Because of the concussion she suffered in this play, Ellertson has missed one and a half games so far. Yes, Milbrett did immediately wave for medical assistance while Ellertson lay motionless on the ground. Perhaps that was sporting behavior on her part, but that does not change the fact that the tackle that caused Ellertson’s head injury was dangerous and reckless. Was McNeill’s tackle also reckless and dangerous? Absolutely. Did she deserve a red card? Definitely. But a three game suspension for McNeill while Milbrett plays on is a little hard to stomach, especially when you compare the injuries sustained by Ellertson with those sustained by Barnhart. I applaud Solo and Lofton-Malachi for calling it like they see it.
Jeff said…
The “jail time” part would seem to point to that. The community service part of the punishment does seem a bit odd, for lack of a better word, but I can’t see Atlanta or McNeill being able to argue much. It was just such a terrible attempt at playing the ball and could have done more damage than it did.
Chris said…
I inferred that Solo was referring to the ludicrous mandatory community service that went along with McNeill’s suspension and not that length of the suspension itself.

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