MLS Week #27-28 September 1-12

“Don’t confuse Delay with Doubt”
— Dr. Frank Anderson, AR Philosopher

Week 27 and 28 are combined in this week’s report after a good AR camp in Los Angeles.  For those unable to attend or were working the three MLS matches, topics covered were,  When and Where to delay the flag, Communication with the referee when misconduct is needed and a thrilling Q/A session with World Cup Assistant referee Frank Anderson.  

Make sure that you look thru the VAR delay procedure outlined in the last report to make sure you are up to date with proper procedures.

If you have any doubt in your offside decision - you are not going to raise the flag, period.


Columbus v NY Football club had a difficult triple offside incident where the AR correctly raised his flag…however a wee bit too soon.    First, a no offside decision on the first pass, second, the attacker’s slight touch on the ball puts NYFC #10 in offside position and he interferes with play, finally a Columbus attacker deliberately plays the ball to NYFC #17, who from an offside position, scores.  A perfect play to have VAR check to confirm, because had the attacker (#17) not made the slight touch on the ball this would not have been offside, and had the assistant not spotted the deliberate play, the goal would have been valid.

The AR should wait a moment longer to allow #17 to shoot before raising the flag. (Which, according to the Call of the Week Selection Committee, eliminated it from contention.)


This flag coming up right away is correct. No doubt the actual decision is tight, the attacker appears to be leaning offside, however, at this distance from goal we recommend the flag and whistle not be delayed.   This decision needs good teamwork between the referee and assistant.


This tight offside decision with a clear attacking situation demands a delayed offside flag, which the AR correctly temporarily keeps down. 
The question is – when should the AR raise the flag? 
IFAB instructions are clear on this issue – Once the initial attack is completed.
 In this incident in SKC, once the keeper has made the save and the ball has gone high in the air with no attacker able to immediately score, the flag needs to be raised.  Orlando does not re-gain clear possession and for the fairness of the game the offside needs to be whistled.

Note:  In cases where the goalkeeper makes a save and holds on to the ball, the flag should still be raised – with the referee having the ability to wave down the flag for game flow reasons.
If the defending team immediately regains possession of the ball after the initial attack is completed the flag should also still be raised as they are likely still under pressure from attacking players. 
However, if the defending team regains possession with counter attacking possibilities, the assistant referee along with the referee will need to judge whether the flag is necessary or appropriate.


San Jose v Vancouver shows another incident of an attacker being in an offside position before the taking of a free kick.  We want to be as pro active as possible on these situations. The only intention of this attacker is to block or interfere with the defenders and if they are still in an offside position at the taking of the kick than it is an offence. 
The referee is crucial in getting this decision right. 
Advice for the referee to be very clear with the player, telling them that they will be called offside if they remain in that position.  Any cross or pass in their vicinity makes them offside.
Watch the player’s actions at the taking of the kick.  Does he move to block?  Do defenders need to avoid or run around him?  If so, then he has committed an offside offence.

Advice for the assistant referee is to first alert the referee to the offside position as the free kick is being set-up. 
Then let the referee know if they are still in offside position at the taking of the kick. (“position, position”)
Finally, since the AR likely does not have a good angle to determine interference, be ready to raise the flag.

This incident in San Jose is tricky because the ball goes to the back post.  Yet keep an eye on the offside attacker.  He clearly makes a move to interfere with defender’s path and had the ball been put back across the goal or if the cross had come to the near post this would have needed to be called. 

Best advice: See if you can get the attacker to not take that position in the first place.




Corey Parker in NYFC gives an example of a good delayed offside flag on a tight decision in NYFC v NE, and, contrary to the uneducated announcers, this goal could have been checked and reviewed.  Although, as expected it was a correct decision.

Katy Nesbitt in Orlando does well to give benefit of doubt to the attack as ORL Dwyer is onside at the taking of this free kick.  Note the offside position of ORL Kjestan before the kick, as he comes across to interfere with Dwyer’s defender, had he been in an offside position at the taking of the kick, it would be interfering with an opponent.

Chris Wattam spots the attacker behind the ball for the tap in goal in San Jose.  Too close to call…so keeping the flag down is the correct decision.




Who had Call of the Week #27-28?
Corey Parker - NY Football Club v New England
Katy Nesbitt - Orlando v Philadelphia
Chris Wattam - San Jose v FC Dallas