Oklahoma City Energy FC midfielder and team captain Michael Thomas will serve a one-game suspension Friday for excessive yellow cards.
Thomas picked up his fifth yellow card of the season Thursday in the first half of a 2-1 loss to Arizona United.
According to United Soccer League’s rules, players exceeding the caution accumulation penalty point plateau(s) will begin serving their suspension commencing on the seventh day after the threshold was reached. USLPRO lists five cautions as a one game suspension and a $100 fine. Eight cautions is the next threshold, which carries a two game suspension.
Energy FC general manager Jason Hawkins said the seven-day grace period is a chance for the team to appeal if it feels it is necessary. The league releases a report every Monday regarding cautions and whether or not a player will serve a suspension. Hawkins said the grace period prevents mistakes from being made.
“It gives a chance to review the league reports,” Hawkins said. “So to insure cards were assigned to the proper player. It’s just an opportunity to review and make sure everything is right and there should be a suspension.”
The loss of Thomas carries a heavy weight. In an April match with Arizona, in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, Thomas received a red card in the first half, which is an automatic ejection, and Energy FC eventually lost. Saturday night in Oklahoma City, Thomas did not play because of a foot injury, and Energy FC lost again.
However, Energy FC coach Jimmy Nielsen said he doesn’t want his players to pull up when they reach four yellow cards.
“I say don’t worry about it, don’t think about it,” Nielsen said ahead of Saturday’s match with L.A. Galaxy II. “Go out there and play your game. If you are suspended, you are suspended.”
Energy FC defender and vice-captain Gareth Evans currently has four yellow cards, but Nielsen went on to say how roster depth gives him freedom to let his players use a more physical style.
“We do have depth, and that’s been one of the good things with this team here,” Nielsen said. “One guy goes out, and you’re not worried about the guy you throw in there. The guys, when their name is called, they’re 100 percent ready.”
Nielsen said he feels like five yellow cards is a sufficient number to warrant a suspension.
“I think it’s fair enough,” Nielsen said. “It’s the first suspension we got this year. I think that tells a lot about the team, we’re playing hard not dirty and we got a good discipline as well.”
If healthy, Thomas will be available to play again Sunday when Charleston visits Pribil Stadium. Thomas has nursed a foot injury for several weeks but insists it’s not a big deal and he’ll be ready to play. Nielsen said telling Thomas to sit out on Saturday against Galaxy II was one of the harder things he’s had to do this season.
“It’s tough with Michael’s mentality to accept he’s not playing, so I had to make the decision for him,” Nielsen said. “He would play no matter what, but you know you have to be smart. He could be out for a long time if something bad happened. Now he has the opportunity to get some good rest and hopefully be full fit and be ready for the last three games in the regular season.”