PRO assistants referees did very well in the first week of regular season matches in MLS. There were zero Key Match Incident errors, good stuff to start off the year. Of course, every week is also a chance to review and see where we can improve.
Preparing for Week #2 starts now. Assistant referees should contact the previous ARs for their match and find out what they learned. For example, next person to be AR1 in Atlanta should give CJ Morgante a call so he can explain the hazards of that line (no room, turf and concrete).
All assistant referees should also go over the scouting reports for each team. Be prepared, and as you will see in the rest of this review, even what may seem to be the smallest decision, may result in goals.
Involvement in the Defensive Third.
An area that PRO assistant referee need to improve on this season is; when to become involved when calling fouls in the defensive third. Before becoming involved anywhere on the field the assistant needs to consider these factors.
- Are they closer to the action with a credible position
- Do they have a better view than the referee
- Do they have a better angle than the referee
- Is it out of the referee's view
Usually, in the defensive third and in the AR's diagonal all of these can be answered "yes". However, there is one more that may be the most important.
Would the referee have blown his whistle if he had the same view as the assistant?
This is where ARs have to put on their referee hats and consider all the factors that are part of making a foul decision.
- Time and intensity of the match.
- Players on cautions.
- Is it considered normal contact.
- Would advantage be applied.
- Is the contact at the same level that the referee has been calling fouls so far in the match.
Consider these two nearly identical fouls from two matches in Week 1. What is the best decision the AR can make in this circumstance? Can the referee see the contact? What other options did the assistant referee have other than raising his flag?
For background on these two decisions, both ensuing free kicks resulted in the first goal of the match. Comparing the two, and although you could argue for each call made, a simple foul for the initial charging on the Portland player in Video 1 and a throw in for Video 2 would be seen as fair by most observers.
ARs must be careful and sure before giving a free kick to the attack in the same way the referee would not carelessly give a free kick at the top of the penalty area for all contact. In your pregame sessions you should go over with the referee how he wants to deal with this kind of contact in the corner and the best way to communicate.
One more on Involvement
This example is one where the referee decides to overrule the assistant, which unfortunately can hurt the referee team's credibility. However, the clip alone does not explain the situation. Toronto's Altidore and Salt Lake's Schuler have been battling all game as two strong players will do. Schuler is sitting on a caution for delaying a restart earlier in the match. The match is 0-0 and approximately the 93rd minute.
Would the assistant been better off communicating to the referee about a possible hold, without raising the flag, keeping in mind all the other factors? This gives the referee the latitude to decide whether to blow his whistle and give Toronto a free kick into the area in the dying seconds of the match. Things to consider before the flag.
Concentration on even the small decisions
Simple decision for a throw in, that turns into a goal. No need to make a quick decision if not sure and why not take a moment to read the behavior of the players to help you decide? This decision is in the referee's area, as he probably has a better view, and there is nothing wrong in communicating to the referee that you did not get a clear view of the last touch or are not sure. Situations like this can put defensive players out of position if they are expecting the decision to go their way.
Patience on the Flag
Simple reminder here that there is rarely a need for a quick offside flag. PRO assistant referee are all very good at judging offside decisions, so don't rush it. Be patient and let the play develop. 'nough said.
Example of Good Movement After a Corner Kick
One of our Points of Emphasis for PRO assistants this year is movement when the ball is near the penalty area. Notice how the AR moves quickly to his left on the clearance so that he can be square to the field by the time the cross is made. This is good practice.
Call of the Week #1
There were many good offside decisions in Week #1 for PRO assistants. Who had the best call of last week's matches in MLS? Three choices this week, three close offside decisions. Choose wisely.
Oh, so dramatic...
It is not all glamour being a PRO assistant referee, there are hazards to the job. The music just makes this clip an instant classic.