Week 30 - Penalty Kick and Goal in San Jose

Week 30
Review for Penalty Kick

San Jose v Atlanta - 66th minute

Eventually it was going to happen. A missed penalty kick on one end of the field followed by a quick counter attack goal on the other. This is the “nightmare” scenario for video review because it makes a huge impact on the game. In this case, San Jose would have taken a 4-1 lead, but after video review cancels their goal and the penalty is scored by Atlanta, it changes to a tight 3-2 lead.

What happened: San Jose v Atlanta - 66th Minute  

Program view

Operator Output

With the score at 3-1 to San Jose a possible handling offence occurs in the SJ penalty area when the ball strikes SJ Eriksson’s upper arm. The referee is shielded by the body of Eriksson and does not see where the ball hits and play continues. Shortly thereafter San Jose gains control of the ball and immediately counter attacks with SJ Wondolowski scoring.
The Video Review Process Timeline:

  • 00:00 SJ Eriksson handles the ball

  • :04 VAR begins to check for penalty kick

  • :18 SJ gains possession of the ball and counters

  • :24 VAR sees Camera 3 Low EZ left as best angle

  • :32 SJ Wondolowski scores

  • :45 VAR decides that it is a clear error in the non giving of the penalty kick

  • :50 VAR tells referee to delay the match

  • :55 VAR checks SJ goal to confirm there was no error. (This is done in case the referee does not give the penalty for ATL)

  • 1:12 VAR contacts referee and recommends a review for possible penalty - handling

Why is this a clear handling offence?
Their is no doubt that the ball strikes the arm of Eriksson. This is the “clear” part. At the moment that the ball is crossed Eriksson’s arm is in a natural position near his body, however as the ball travels towards him he moves his arm upwards into an unnatural position using his elbow to block the ball. The ball comes towards him from a distance, there is a secondary motion of his arm towards the ball, his arm is in an unnatural position making it a obvious handling offence.

RRA Output

Could the VAR have stopped the game prior to San Jose scoring?: The video review process worked about as efficiently as possible. The VAR only had 18 seconds to make a decision and attempt to stop the play before San Jose began their counter attack.
Once on the attack, VR protocol and instruction does not allow the VAR and referee to stop the match, but they need to wait until the ball is in a neutral zone (an area where there is no clear attacking opportunity). This procedure is in place because there is always the possibility that the referee might not agree with the VAR and it would not be seen as fair to have taken away the opportunity to score from the opponent.
Imagine if in this case that the VAR was able to quickly communicate with the referee to stop play and the referee had done so 25 seconds after the handball incident. This would have been just about the time San Jose was crossing midfield with a 3v2 opportunity. The referee then goes to the RRA monitor, looks at the footage and decides it was not a hand ball penalty kick. He would then have to return to the field and restart with a drop ball near midfield. San Jose would have unfairly lost their scoring opportunity.

Is the final outcome correct?:
PRO feels that this was a good use of the video review system to correct a clear error in the non giving of a penalty for handling. It is one of the unfortunate consequences that other incidents may happen during the checking process, the alternative to this would be to constantly stop play which would disrupt the match.
***If a incident of SFP or Violent Conduct had happened during the check process and a red card had been shown (instead of a goal for example) the red card sanction would NOT be rescinded as they are looked at for the severity of the incident in isolation.


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