Week 20 - Review of PK in Atlanta v Seattle

Review of Penalty kick given to Seattle after video review for a handling offense

Images the VAR used to make recommendation

What Happened:  At the 42nd minute a SEA shot was blocked by ATL's Franco Escobar. The referee initially awarded a corner kick to SEA, and the VAR checked the footage for a possible handling offense.

On doing so, the VAR could see:

  • Right arm of Escobar had blocked the shot (confirmation that the ball hit the arm)
  • The arm was in a high position near to his head
  • Not in a natural position 
  • Movement of the arm was upwards and not natural
  • Escobar had made himself 'bigger'
  • The ball had not come from a deflection/rebound or very close (about 6 yards away)

as such the VAR recommended a Video Review. The referee looked at the footage in the RRA and correctly awarded a penalty kick to SEA.

RRA Monitor (What the referee looked at)

Video Review:
Immediately after taking the shot the referee asked the VAR to check for a possible handball saying that he had been blocked by the player's body and was not sure if it had hit the arm or the chest of the Escobar. 
As the VAR begins to check you can first see that he tries to find the best angle so that he could determine if the ball had come off the chest or the arm of the player.  After 20 seconds he has found the three best angles available and begins to use the zoom feature.  In doing so the Right 18 camera shows that the contact with the arm is clear.  1:00 minute into the check he decides to recommend a review.

On going to the RRA monitor the referee was shown the Right 18 camera zoomed in to make his determination.  

Why no VR for handling incident at 32nd minute:  Approximately 10 minutes prior to the penalty given for handling there was another similar handling offense by ATL #5 where the VAR felt it had not crossed the line of intervention to recommend a review.  There were some slight differences between the two.  In the incident with #5 there is a hard shot coming from very close range, the arm is in a natural position near his side, the player is turning away from the play and there is no extra movement of his arm.  The VAR checked this incident, but felt that it was not a clear and obvious handling offense for those reasons.    

PRO's Opinion:  Handling offenses are always difficult as we saw with the VAR intervention in the World Cup final (was that clear and obvious?).  Their subjective nature will always leave room for argument.  PRO VARs are instructed to look for there considerations before making a recommendation:

  • Is arm in natural position?
  • Is there movement of the arm towards the ball?
  • Is the player making himself bigger by leaving his arms out?
  • Did the ball come unexpectedly at the player from a deflection or rebound?
  • How far did the ball travel before hitting the arm? (Could contact been avoided)
  • Did the ball come off of another part of the player's body before hitting the arm?

In this incident in Atlanta, PRO feels that this was a good use of the Video Review system to grant the penalty for handling. 

What is your opinion? - ATL v SEA - Is this a correct review for a penalty kick - handling
Yes, it was a clear and obvious handball and the penalty kick was correctly awarded
No, it was Not a clear and obvious handball, PK should NOT have been awarded
Video/Incident is inconclusive - Decision on the field should have stood

For any additional questions related to these incidents, other incidents, or video review as a whole, please contact Christa Mann or Sean McCabe of Major League Soccer via the contact details below.

Christa Mann
Communications Manager
Major League Soccer

Sean McCabe
Manager, Video Review Operations