The MLS disciplinary committee will not punish Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic after reviewing video of a violent incident in last week’s win over crosstown rival LAFC. But the committee did not clear him either, informing the Galaxy that Ibrahimovic has been issued a warning, meaning he is subject to suspension and other penalties if he repeats a similarly reckless play.
Four minutes into stoppage time of the Galaxy’s 3-2 victory, Ibrahimovic and LAFC defender Mohamed El-Munir leapt in tandem to compete for a header. But as he went up, Ibrahimovic struck El-Munir in the side of the head with his left forearm and elbow.
El-Munir collapsed to the turf clutching his head and was subbed off three minutes later. He is scheduled to undergo surgery Friday to repair a fractured cheekbone and will likely miss the rest of the regular season.
The incident came 12 minutes after El-Munir stomped on the right leg of Galaxy midfielder Joe Corona. Referee Jair Marrufo did not call a foul on either play and while the disciplinary committee also reviewed the El-Munir challenge and considered it to be a serious foul, it has not recommended a suspension in that incident either.
After the game Zak Abdel, LAFC’s goalkeeper coach, charged Ibrahimovic to complain about the injury to El-Munir. The pair was quickly separated by two Galaxy officials.
The MLS disciplinary committee, made up of three former MLS players, one former coach and a former referee, meets weekly to look at video of a variety of plays, including so-called parameter three reviews, which are plays in which the on-field official did not issue a red or yellow card. In those reviews the committee can recommend only multi-game suspensions and the five members who met this week could not reach a unanimous decision that Ibrahimovic’s action deserved such a ban.
Ibrahimovic, who had a hat trick in the LAFC game and is tied for second in MLS with 16 goals, was suspended three times previously during his two seasons in the league, most recently in May after he grabbed New York City goalkeeper Sean Johnson by the neck with his right hand before the players wrestled one another to the turf.
Johnson lay on the grass for several seconds clutching at his face. After the game, Johnson angrily confronted Ibrahimovic, who was suspended for two games and fined. Johnson was not punished for his part in the incident.
Ibrahimovic, 37, was also fined but not suspended for embellishment during a May game at Columbus.
Last season Ibrahimovic was given a red card and missed one game after slapping Montreal’s Michael Petrasso on the side of the head. The league also forced Ibrahimovic to sit out a game last season as punishment for skipping the MLS All-Star game, which was played on artificial turf in Atlanta.
Ibrahimovic was suspended repeatedly during his career in Europe. In 2011, while playing for Milan, he received a three-game ban for punching an opponent in the stomach. He received another three-game suspension a year later for slapping an opponent.
The next season, while playing in France, Ibrahimovic was suspended two games for kicking an opposing goalkeeper in the chest and three months later he got another ban for stomping on an opponent.