Week #3 March 16-17

Several big decision by PRO assistant referees in Week 3. An offside with a deliberate play incident created controversy in Toronto vs New England, but for anyone who has closely followed offside interpretations for the last several years would not find it all that complicated to decipher.
There was a mass confrontation at the very end of a match that at 3-1 was finished for all intensive purpose. We look at the AR’s involvement, was there a drop in concentration? and what our best practices should be.
The answer for the Tulsa v Portland2 offside question and the Call of the Week #3.


Deliberate Play in Toronto v New England

What happened: #19 of New England goes to ground to win a loose pass.  He beats #14 of Toronto, but only manages to clear the ball about 6 yards.  #20 of Toronto sees an opportunity to play a forward pass up to #14 of Toronto, who is now some 3-4 yards in an offside position.  #20 chips a pass towards his teammate #14.  As the pass is headed towards its intended target, #19 of New England attempts to clear the ball or block the pass.  Unfortunately it didn't work, and the ball ends up going to #14, who plays a square ball to #7 of Toronto who scores.

Offside or not? This is a deliberate play made by #19, and therefore not offside. 
Here are the considerations:

  • One cannot expect a defender to just watch a ball go by.  It is a natural footballing instinct for a defender to try and cut out this pass, however:

    • The defender can see that #20 of Toronto is going to get onto this loose ball, and will likely pass it to his open teammate #14, while still being on the ground

    • There are no other players obstructing his view of the ball

    • The ball is not played at the defender,

    • the defender must move towards the ball

    • The ball is not played at such a high speed where the defender has only time for a single reactionary movement

    • The defender comes off the ground, takes a step before reaching out with his right leg to try and play the ball.  That extra step is the key in the determination of this being a deliberate play vs a rebound/deflection

    • The defender is making a conscious action towards the ball

How to handle this on the field

Audio at moment of the offside incident

Unfortunately the AR2 did not show enough patience before raising the flag. Listen to the audio on this short clip. 
The AR is saying "offside offside" at the same time that the referee says "defender defender defender".  (As well as AR1 who has a good view) The AR does put the flag down after having raised it initially which is the right move. Most of the New England defenders continue playing (minus #19 who's never getting in this play regardless).  However, the optic of the AR’s even very very quick up/down flag does not go over well when the referee wants to allow play to continue. The referee has shouted "defender defender" about as quickly as possible.    
So let's look at how this should go down from the AR side.

  • The attacker is easily in an offside position. 

  • AR notices it goes very close to a defender swinging his leg, and the ball changes directions. 

  • At this stage, don't flag, and shout "help touch".  (You also may add - “Did the defender play it? if no response from the referee.)

  • The referee can then answer with the standard phrase "Defender Defender" (This should have been established in the pregame. )

  • If no answer comes back and you're still in doubt, and because you have doubt, FLAG STAYS DOWN.  Once the sequence is finished, delay the restart and discuss with the referee. 

  • The answer might not have been available that second, but if the right answer was offside, then it should be given, rather than a corner kick.

Concentration at End of a Match

The painfully long confrontation and waiting for the restart - you must watch to get the feeling of frustration

To say it fairly, Orlando v Montreal was a bit of a heated contest with a few flash points.   But the crew made it to 94:10, with a minimum of 5 minutes to be added on, and there was to be an uncontested “fair play” drop ball at midfield. 
#7 of Orlando did not do what football expected of passing the ball back to Montreal, but rather started an attack, forcing Montreal on their heels trying to defend. When the attack was finished and the ball went out to a throw in (important piece of the puzzle) the Montreal players targeted #7 for his lack of “fair play.”

Part 1 - Leading up to the mass confrontation

Although the original uncontested drop ball might have been managed better, we will concentrate on the involvement of the assistant referee and what can be done better.
Part 1 - Leading up to the Mass confrontation

  • With everyone scrambling back the AR also is caught flat footed

  • When the ball is controlled by MTL the AR relaxes, turns up field and walks

  • With the AR still in this up field walking motion the ball is pressured resulting in a deflection that goes to an offside attacker (there are no defenders off the screen)

  • Instruction has been given to not turn up field and not to relax when play is near the 18 or whenever you have an attacker in an offside position

  • The AR is caught by surprise and is not sure about where the offside attacker was at the moment of the deflection.

  • The ball goes right to the end line, but because the AR was not square to field he cannot make it there to judge.

  • The ball is cleared to a throw in, but the AR makes no signal. (This signal might have been helpful to the whole crew as we will see later in the sequence)

  • The AR needs to smell trouble at this point…and there is.

    • It's almost the end of the match - the away team is winning by 2 goals

    • Montreal expected Orlando to give them the ball back or at least kick it out of bounds. 

    • “Fair play” was expected but not given

    • Soon as the ball next goes out of play, you see Montreal players upset with #7.

    • Two Montreal players go immediately towards #7 of Orlando, with two others on the way

Part 2 - The confrontation

The expectation here of a PRO AR is to assist the referee with match control.  The AR is about 10 yards away.  The best action for the AR here would be to enter the field, and get in between #7 Orlando and the Montreal players. 
Could that have stopped the situation to escalate? We will never know, but it is what we expect. Since we know that #7 is who the Montreal players are targeting, separating him would limit their ability to push and shove this player.  It also allows the AR the chance to try and talk down the Montreal players, using whatever personality / wording they have in their personal tool kit. 
The AR here doesn't react quick enough and does not move off his line and once there are several players involved it is best practice to stay out of the middle and observe.
#5 of Montreal ends up putting hands into the face of #14 of Orlando, who falls to the ground. This gets the AR to take a few steps into the field, but still unsure as to what to do, eventually a red card is shown to #5 and a caution to #14. 
Part 3 - The restart. The referee is about to give a dangerous free kick to Orlando, which would clearly not be correct. However, since no signal for throw in was given the crew is unsure and ask the VAR to verify what is the correct restart, which takes way too long.
This incident acts as reminder for all PRO ARs:

  • The match isn't over until you’re back in the locker room.  NO loss of concentration at the end of matches

  • In cases where you can anticipate players coming together with the ball out of play, get into the field early when you are the closest match official to the incident.  

  • You must use your voice and body and personality to help diffuse situations such as these.  Standing by watching is not acceptable

  • If the situation does escalate to involve many more players, THEN take steps back and observe.

  • While all mass confrontation situations are not the same, we leave responsibility to the referee and VAR.

  • Know the restart, everyone on the crew can help on this.

Answer - What Would You Do? Tulsa v Portland 2

This play is offside - interfering with an opponent.

The issue here is the offside positioned attacker #44, and whether his movement constitutes an obvious action which clearly impacts an opponent who in this case is the goalkeeper. 
Let’s look at the actions/movements of the concerned players:

  • The attacker could remain stationary, but he chooses to move.

  • The attacker moves towards the ball, not away from it

  • The goalkeeper has to anticipate what #44 might do, when deciding to dive or not

  • As a result of #44's movement, the goalkeeper gets caught in two minds, and his resulting indecision causes him not to full out dive to attempt a save.

Many might say "Not Offside" because they feel that the goalkeeper was never getting there, or that benefit of doubt should go to the attacking team.  However this wasn't a high speed shot into the upper 90, this is a headed ball into the ground. 
Ask yourself, "If I remove that attacker, would the goalkeeper have been at full stretch or at least attempted to dive to make the save?" 
If your answer is yes (even if grudgingly), it's reasonable to conclude that #44 did enough to cause a change in behaviour (impact) of the goalkeeper.  With that being the case, hopefully it's clearer to see that the attacker is offside for interfering with an opponent by making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball.

To the three people who voted either Offside - Interfering with Play or Offside - Gaining and advantage, please read Law 11 before your next match.

What Would You Do? - Tulsa v Portland2
Offside - Interfering with an Opponent
Offside - Interfering with Play
Offside - Gaining an advantage
No offside

Winner - MLS Call of the Week #2 - Felisha Mariscal

Felisha Mariscal wins for her decision in Seattle.

Felisha Mariscal wins for her decision in Seattle.


MLS Call of the Week #3

Kyle Atkins is choice numero uno with his good decision to keep the flag down on San Jose’s only goal at NY Red Bulls. Numero Dos is Corey Parker who has a very tight decision in the middle of the park that leads to a goal line clearance. Well done to both, but who did it better?

Kyle Atkins

Who had Call of the Week #3?
Kyle Atkins - NY Red Bulls v San Jose
Corey Parker - Atlanta v Philadelphia