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Major League Soccer

Fabian Espindola, D.C. United's most influential attacker during this renaissance season at RFK Stadium, is facing a six-game suspension from MLS for shoving an assistant referee after the playoff finale last month, sources familiar with the case said Thursday.

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Espindola shared the team lead in goals with 11 and was first in assists with nine during United's first-place campaign. A six-game ban, among the longest in league history for on-field behavior, would constitute about 18 percent of the 34-game regular season next year. MLS will also fine him an undisclosed amount.

The suspension is not expected to prevent him from playing in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, a two-game series with Costa Rica's Alajuelense before the MLS season begins in March.

United officials said they would not comment until MLS announces sanctions, although they have been bracing for a long-term suspension. Espindola is out of the country and not available for an interview. The league did not immediately offer comment.

MLS typically announces penalties within days of an incident, but because United's season ended with the two-game aggregate defeat to the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 8, there has been no urgency in publicizing the decision. Furthermore, Espindola returned to his native Argentina after the season and was mulling whether to appeal the disciplinary committee's findings.

It is unclear whether he requested the players' union to file an appeal on his behalf or whether the process has been exhausted. However, MLS is planning to announce the six-game ban in the near future, one source said.

"It's harsh," another source said, "but you just can't touch the officials."

Espindola, in his first season in Washington after six with Real Salt Lake and one in New York, was on good behavior most of the year: five yellow cards in 27 league games and a questionable red card at New York in September.

But in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinal series at RFK, Espindola erupted over what he and some teammates thought was a missed out-of-bounds call by assistant referee George Gansner early in the second half. As play continued, Espindola gestured and shouted at Gansner. Within 20 seconds, the Red Bulls scored the equalizer, a goal magnified by the away goal rule.

In order to advance, United would now have to score three goals instead of just one to force extra time, or two to win the series outright. D.C. did score in the waning moments for a 2-1 victory but lost the total-goals series on 3-2 aggregate. (Away goals are the first tiebreaker, which the Red Bulls led, 1-0.)

After the goal, Espindola approached Gansner and received a yellow card from referee Ismail Elfath.

Espindola's fury resurfaced after the final whistle when he berated and then shoved Gansner. Elfath showed him a red card, which carried an automatic two-game suspension next season.

Espindola has not commented on the incident: He left the locker room before reporters arrived after the match and, because of a scheduling miscommunication, he missed the end-of-year media availability session. At that time, coach Ben Olsen said: "It's obviously not how we want to conduct ourselves here. It's not something we want our players to be doing, getting involved in that stuff. I don't know what is going to happen, but it's done with and we'll deal with it."

Last week, general manager Dave Kasper said he and Olsen "have spoken with Fabi several times. He knows he made a mistake and he regrets his actions. He's a passionate guy, but we can't have our players doing those sorts of things."

Last week, MLS suspended Vancouver's Sebastian Fernandez four games for bumping referee Mark Geiger after his team was eliminated from the playoffs by Dallas. During the regular season, Dallas' Fabian Castillo was banned four games for making contact with an official.

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Steven Goff, The Washington Post

Colleges

UMBC's Elliott to have surgery, out for season

UMBC announced Thursday that standout sophomore point guard Rodney Elliott (John Carroll) will undergo shoulder surgery and miss the rest of the 2014-15 men's basketball season. The 6-foot, 190-pound son of former Maryland basketball player Rodney Elliott Sr. tore the labrum in his left shoulder in the season opener Nov. 14 at Akron and had not played in the past five games. He was named the America East Rookie of the Year last season after averaging 15.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game.

Aki Thomas

Edward Lee

More UMBC men's basketball: The Retrievers (0-7) fell, 83-60, to host George Washington (4-2) on Thursday night. Freshman guard Malcolm Brent went 4-for-4 from 3-point range for a team-high 12 first-half points. Brent led UMBC with 15 total points and four rebounds. Sophomore guard Will Darley (Dulaney) added 10 points.

Women's basketball: Towson (3-5) earned a 63-50 victory over host Loyola Maryland (0-6). Junior guard Dominique Johnson led all players with 18 points for the Tigers, and redshirt senior forward LaTorri Hines-Allen had 17. Sophomore guard Lisa Mirarchi scored 17 for the Greyhounds, and junior guard Colleen Marshall added 16. ... Assistant coach Michael Seney will take over as interim head coach at Harford Community College after the resignation of fifth-year head coach Ashley Sammons.

Maryland football: The Terps got an oral commitment Thursday night from four-star defensive lineman Adam McLean, who announced his commitment on Twitter. McLean, who plays for Quince Orchard in Gaithersburg, committed to Penn State in April before decommitting in November. He also has offers from schools such as Alabama, Florida State, Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Texas.

Matt Zenitz, Baltimore Sun Media Group

More football: The Big Ten sent a memo to athletic directors Wednesday with the message that one bowl-eligible team might be left out of the postseason. If Michigan State plays in the Orange Bowl, that means no Big Ten team would be in the Citrus Bowl because of an agreement that the conference sends only one team to the Orange or Citrus. Illinois (6-6), Penn State (6-6), Rutgers (7-5) or Maryland (7-5) could be the odd team out.

Women's soccer: UMBC senior midfielder Jessy Brown has been named to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Northeast Region second team. ... Johns Hopkins seniors forward Hannah Kronick, defender Emily Nagourney and midfielder-forward Sydney Teng were named to the NSCAA Division III All-Mid-Atlantic Region first team. Blue Jays sophomore Ana Bengoechea and Lebanon Valley sophomore forward Sammy Bost (Liberty) were named to the second team. Stevenson senior defender Kaylie Yapps (Fallston) made the third team. ... Harford Community College sophomore midfielder Nicole Wojcik was named to the National Junior College Athletic Association All-America second team.

Men's track and field: Goucher was picked in the Landmark Conference preseason poll to finish eighth.

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Et cetera

Former Sun reporter Burwell dies of cancer at 59

St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bryan Burwell died Thursday of cancer at age 59, the newspaper reported. Burwell, who was a high school sports reporter for The Baltimore Sun in the late 1970s, was a regular on ESPN's "The Sports Reporters" until September. He previously wrote columns for USA Today and The Detroit News, and worked in New York at the Daily News and Newsday. He also was a correspondent on HBO's "Inside the NFL" and wrote a biography of football coach John Madden.

Varsity boys basketball: Tonight's game between St. Frances (6-0) and host Mount Saint Joseph (6-0), set for 7, is sold out.

Laurel Park: Maryland Jockey Club handicapper Keith Feustle named Eighttofasttocatch was named the prohibitive 4-5 morning line favorite for the $125,000 Jennings Handicap on Saturday. Lady Sabelia is the 5-2 morning line choice in the $100,000 Willa On The Move Stakes for fillies and mares. Golden Years is the even-money favorite in the $100,000 Marylander Stakes for 2-year-olds. Lake Sebago is the 2-1 favorite in the $100,000 Gin Talking Stakes for 2-year-old fillies.

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