With only four MLS matches played last weekend this week's report is short. However, there is a good reminder for why you always cover passes back to the goalkeeper and what do you do with players that come back to the ball from an offside position. Most of you answered last week's What Would You Do? incorrectly, so check the answer and then vote for the best Call of the Week.
Coming Back to the Ball
Attackers that come back to the ball from an offside position create a special challenge for assistant referees. Especially since when the flag is raised the attacker has defenders behind him and is facing his own goal. Most players, coaches and fans are confused because they were not paying attention to where the attacker was at the moment of the pass.
Assistant referees need to be especially aware of these players on long high passes since by the time the ball arrives defenders have moved and attackers appear to be onside. Especially true of those "lazy" attackers who tend to walk back after a clearance.
This happened in the New England v Orlando match this past Saturday. Paul Rejer, PRO Director of Training and Education, has already covered this play from a communication aspect here in PRO Play of the Week. This article relates to how to correctly make this decision.
PRO assistant referees should always be especially wary when any player has taken an offside position or remains in one when his own team has possession of the ball anywhere on the field. In this case two clearly offside positioned players are walking back with their teammates in possession of the ball over 50 yards away. It is important to read the body language of the player in possession of the ball, is he looking up field? is he winding up to hit a long pass? etc. These are obvious clues that the attackers may become involved in play.
In this case the pass is not intended for them but is over hit and miss judged by the defense and the ball pops thru to the attacker who by now is in an onside position. At that moment the AR has to mentally track back to the original pass, where was the attacker at that moment? Top assistant referees are always taking mental freeze frame pictures of attacker's position every time the ball is passed or played forward. Pulling this picture from their file they can see the player was in offside position and has now become involved in play.
Advice here is keep taking pictures whenever you have players in offside position. It takes practice, but will come in handy for that one time that the ball slips thru.
Covering the Pass Back
PRO's instructions to assistant referee for the last couple of years has accentuated the need to cover any pass back to the keeper that has the potential of crossing the goal line or is being pressured by an attacker. Yes, sometimes this may seem like a futile effort as usually the goalkeeper launches a long clearance and you must sprint back to get to the second to last defender. Especially frustrating when teams use the goal keeper a lot. Still your fitness level is expected to be high enough to be able to do this. We have had numerous cases over the years of poor passes that created tight goal line decisions or the goal keeper have had difficulty clearing the ball under pressure.
From NASL North Carolina FC v FC Edmonton comes a good reminder of why you must continue to cover back passes to the goal keeper. In this case the assistant referee has not made the right effort to cover the back pass and is not in a credible position to make a decision. This should never be you.
Answer - What Should You Do? NE v DC
The majority of you recognized that this play is an offside offense that needs to be flagged. However, you differed on when the flag should be raised.
Although the majority of you voted to hold the flag until the attacker was near enough to the defender to challenge, that is not the best answer. There is too much time between the moment of offside (pass) and the flag. The extra running by both players is wasted, which causes frustration in them since the play was already dead. Any tackle by the attacker could cause injury or additional misconduct which would be hard to justify since the offside happened several seconds earlier.
Once this attacker has made a clear move to chase the ball and defender is the right moment to raise the flag.
If you watched the video in its entirety you might have noticed a clue in the second replay when the video freezes for a moment. That is the moment the flag should be raised.
Winner - Call of the Week #25 - Kevin Klinger
Call of the Week #26
Even in a shortened week we have two good candidates for Call of the Week. Both are no flag decisions that result in goals. Mike Kampmeinert in Los Angeles keeps track of the far defender who keeps the goalscorer onside and Corey Parker has three decisions on one play in New England.