Picault spoke publicly for the first time since the suspension was handed down for discriminatory language in a preseason scrimmage against Orlando City. Lions midfielder Pierre da Silva was also suspended three games for his own use of discriminatory language.
“It wasn’t between us — there were two separate occasions,” Picault said. “Honestly, nothing crazy happened. It was a moment, and a word that was taken completely out of context. But it’s OK, I respect the league’s zero tolerance, and I’m just ready to move forward from it and do what I’ve got to do.”
Unfortunately for the Union — and Picault too, of course — the suspension was drawn out over an entire month. Sometimes a team will play three games in a week, but the Union played three games in all of March. They had one weekend off because a game was rescheduled by MLS, and another because of a break for national team games set by FIFA’s global calendar.
“I’ve had a lot of time over the last four or five weeks to think about it,” Picault said. “From my side, it just was a situation that I feel could have been a bit misinterpreted, but I served the penalty. … Now I’m just ready to get to it. I look forward to a long and successful year.”
Misinterpretations or not, as Picault said, he accepted the penalty and respects MLS’ zero tolerance policy on discriminatory language. So he is ready to put the suspension behind him and play this coming weekend against the San Jose Earthquakes (7 p.m., PHL17).
“Three games out of my whole career is not going to kill me,” he said. “I’ll be more than all right, and I just look forward to doing my thing.”
And he will play, manager Jim Curtin said. It will be the first time all year that Curtin has his full first-choice attacking lineup available: Haris Medunjanin and Alejandro Bedoya in deep central midfield, playmaker Borek Dockal in front of them, David Accam wide left, Picault wide right, and C.J. Sapong up top.
“I think we’re going to stretch a lot of defenses,” Picault said. “Maybe wingbacks will be a little more scared to push up, and it gives us more space to do things, and if we’re marked up tight [on the wings], it will give the middle the opportunity to create chances from there.”
Picault was able to practice fully during the suspension, so he has gotten plenty of work in with teammates. But in games, the Union have clearly missed his pace and trickery.
“It sucks,” he said of having to watch games from afar. “It’s not fun. I don’t want to watch games, whether it’s suspension or injury.”
Picault also has a scoring touch, as shown by his seven goals last season. The Union could use that, too, having gone scoreless in their last two games.
And the 27-year-old has a broader perspective. He isn’t known as a hothead, and his disciplinary record is pretty clean. He had just two yellow cards last year with the Union, eight in his pro career, and just one red card — back in 2014 with the minor-league Fort Lauderdale Strikers.
“I’m not really worried about getting a hot head,” he said. “I know when to chill out, I know when to not chill out. So nothing should be any problem.”
Kickoff times changed
The kickoff times of two Union road games were changed this week. The June 2 game at Atlanta United will now start at 7:30 p.m. instead of 7 p.m; and the June 30 game at Los Angeles FC will now start at 8 p.m. instead of 10:30 p.m. PHL17 will televise both contests.