MLS Week #26 August 22-26

At the start of the season when the VAR delay was first introduced we outlined the parameters as to When it should be used and Where it should be used.  Over the next months most of you began working the when into your decision making, however, along the way we seem to have forgotten the where.  This week that will be the only focus of the AR report with three good examples of where the VAR delay should NOT be used. 


Starting Point:  The most important concept to remember about "where" is that everywhere on the field, if the AR has doubt about offside, the flag does not go up. Period.  

If you have doubt about offside. Don't raise the flag. Inform VAR of possible offside.

If you have doubt about offside. Don't raise the flag. Inform VAR of possible offside.

IF IN DOUBT - Keep the flag down - everywhere -  


If a goal is about to be scored:  Delay the Flag, Delay the Whistle
To get this right it is a teamwork decision.  Both the referee and assistant need to communicate.   First, the AR, by letting the referee know they are delaying their flag.  ("Delay, delay, offside") Second, the referee, by holding their whistle until the ball is in the net.
For both - the flag and whistle should come when the scoring incident has concluded and the restart should be at the IDK offside location.   

If a goal or penalty incident results, or the attacking team is awarded a free kick, corner kick or throw in or retains possession of the ball after the initial attack has ended, and the AR would, in a non-VAR match, have flagged for offside,  then the (delayed) signal must be given as it is clearly unfair for the attacking team to benefit from not being penalized.

(It is up to the referee's discretion to whistle for offside and wave the flag down when the goalkeeper retains the ball after a save and has the option to start a quick counter attack or the referee does not want to interfere with the flow of the match as they would have done in a Non VAR match.)

The AR should delay the flag if an attacking player has a ‘free run’, is in a very good scoring position, moving directly to, or within, the penalty area.

The AR should delay the flag if an attacking player has a ‘free run’, is in a very good scoring position, moving directly to, or within, the penalty area.



RAISE THE FLAG when the situation has concluded (goal, corner, penalty, etc.)

As instructed the VAR delay is meant for immediate scoring opportunities in the attacking third near the penalty area.  The graph shows a general guideline of where on the field it should be applied, with knowledge that there may be some grey area, depending on reading the actual incident.  However, the arrows show that the clear direction is towards the goal.  An attacking player who takes the ball away from goal or dribbles in a manner that no longer supports an immediate scoring opportunity should be flagged.  


VAR delay is not for the midfield offside situations.  Instruction here is to kill the play right away.  There is either a flag or nothing.  If you have a doubt about the offside, then no flag at the beginning, middle or end.  We do not want to see flags "half way".

Either flag stays down or goes up immediately. Do not wait until “half way”

Philadelphia v New England:  This incident shows why we cannot have flags and whistles delayed from midfield.  The glaring example of why is to simply watch the defenders (and some attackers) stop playing when the flag goes up.  Right or wrong, this behavior is normal when a player sees the flag up, expecting the forthcoming whistle.  
Since the flag was delayed to the halfway point, the attack had already developed into a clear scoring situation that the referee then delayed his whistle to allow the ball to enter the net.  The referee was put in an awkward position by the delayed flag.
We expect that that the next time you see a similar situation there would be no flag at any point of this play and the whistle would not be delayed either. 

Houston v Dallas:
Kill this play at midfield with the flag.  There are no other attackers in the vicinity and the AR has offside.  There is too much distance to goal.   Again, a halfway flag is not helpful as it puts the referee in an awkward position of either allowing play to continue with a flag up or delay the whistle.  Advice here to referee is to not delay the whistle and stop play once the flag is up. 

Toronto v Montreal:
Kill this play at midfield.  Although the AR waits until the incident is completed (no halfway flag), the offside situation is too far away from goal and the flag should go up without delay and the whistle should also not be delayed. 

Additional notes: Although we have not specifically mentioned it previously, the referee should delay the whistle until the ball is in the net if there is an immediate goal situation following a close out of bound decision or if the referee identifies a possible ‘offence’ by the attacking team i.e. the whistle should be delayed if there is a strong likelihood of a goal being scored almost immediately.




Joe Fletcher made a nice decision to correctly wait until the ball was in the back of the net before flagging offside after the goalkeeper leaves a juicy rebound after a shot.  Mike Kampmeinert keeps the flag down on a nicely timed run that leaves the attacker in loads of space, the panoramic camera angle proving him right.   Which do you like best? 



Who had Call of the Week #26?
Joe Fletcher - Toronto v Montreal
Mike Kampmeinert - San Jose v Vancouver