All of a sudden delayed flags are the latest rage in MLS, with several examples in Week 25, but did we get them all correct? Four good incidents to look at.
A few teams have started experimenting with offside position on free kicks, it takes teamwork and awareness to make sure we don't miss this interfering with an opponent.
An close missed offside decision at midfield with the attacker receiving the ball in his own half with their back to goal, usually is not a big deal, or is it?
For Week 25 - Call of the Week we will put two delayed flags up against a nice no offside decision to see which you liked best.
DELAYING (AGAIN) AND
WHEN DO YOU RAISE THE FLAG?
For the most part PRO assistant referees have been implementing the VAR delay flag well throughout the league, with a few exceptions (you know who you are). The VAR delay also needs teamwork with the referee as it is the timing of their whistle that determines if a goal can be reviewed or not. This past week we had incidents where there was a delayed flag but still the whistle came too soon. So lets fine tune it, so we can get it right every time.
Proper Procedure: If the AR is delaying his flag because the attack has created an immediate goal scoring opportunity he will communicate "delay, delay" and then once the shot is taken, go with the flag and "offside". This allows the referee to know that an offside decision is coming while not triggering a quick whistle. The flag should always go up if the AR had offside and:
The attacking team is awarded a free kick, corner kick or throw in.
The attacking team maintains/regains possession after the initial attack has ended.
The ball goes out for a goal kick (referee can choose whether to give the offside or the goal kick depending on location)
Our first example comes from LAG v COL late in the match. A huge/easy offside decision is converted into a goal, with both the flag and whistle clearly being delayed to allow for the shot and score. The communication is exactly what we are looking for "delay, delay - offside". The VAR only needs a few seconds to confirm this correct decision. This is about a classic a case of VAR delay as you will ever get.
Some might rightly question, why delay the flag on such an obvious offside? It is easy to see offside on the slow motion replay, and those that have been around long enough know that sometimes what appeared on the field to be an easy decision turned out to be much closer than we thought. So simply put, you can allow for the VAR delay whenever you feel the decision could be close.
There was another delayed flag in the same match and another goal scored that was waved off for offside and then confirmed by the VAR. On this incident you can see the flag going up as the cross is made, we would prefer that it be delayed ever so slightly to allow whoever is on the end of the cross to have their chance (and not trigger a whistle). Also, instead of "offside, offside" we want to hear "delay, delay - offside".
This next incident is a hard one and begs the question, when should the flag have been raised? The initial delay of the flag is good because the attacker has an immediate attacking opportunity as he is in, one on one, with the keeper. However, instead of taking the expected shot, he pulls the ball back and looks to make a centering cross, leaving the AR stranded as to whether to stop delaying the flag.
PRO feels that the assistant made the right decision here, as even after the attacker pulled the ball back the attacking sequence was still very viable. The keeper was scrambling to get back into position, the attacker had the option of trying to curl in a shot and he had team mates in good scoring position (the option he choose). Additionally, you can see that the offside decision was correct, but it was close.
One final point to make on this clip. Inform the referee of the location of the proper restart. Unfortunately the referee allowed the restart to be taken from the goal area, which created confusion as the goalscorer was clearly onside. A restart at the top of the penalty area would have let everyone know where the offside infraction took place.
LAFC v RSL had an initially good VAR delayed flag, that in the end never showed up and we cannot allow that to happen.
We have no problems on the delaying the flag here as the attacker looked to be able to put a dangerous cross into a team mate in good position. Even after pulling the ball back, there is still a very good scoring opportunity that we should allow to complete itself. However, once the ball is deflected to a corner kick, the flag must come up. In fact, we would expect this flag to come up even if it had gone out to a goal kick. Players - especially defenders - are beginning to understand the delaying of the flag, but they also want to see it raised when there was offside. Delaying the flag does not mean the offside did not happen, it just means we are holding off to allow the attacking sequence to complete itself first so - if there was a clear error in that decision - the VAR can correct it.
It would not have been fair for the attacking team to score on the ensuing corner kick. When the delay is over, the flag must be given.
FREE KICK TACTICAL OFFSIDE
Here are three examples of free kicks where an attacker decides to put themselves in an offside position before it is taken. One is from last season because it is a very obvious example of this tactic (SEA v POR). The other two come from last week and this week. It is important for the referee crew to be proactive to avoid potential controversy when offside is given.
SEA v POR - This is a rather easy decision, but it is one where the referee will have to call it, because it will be interfering with an opponent. The offside positioned attacker is planning on, in this case, clearly blocking a defender or at least to impede his movement. SEA Alonso obviously does this.
LAG v MN - This one is more subtle, so it is important the the AR let the referee know, first that they have an attacker in offside position - giving them the number would be helpful - so that the referee can be proactive and warn the player that he will be called for an offside infraction. Then, once the free kick is taken, whether that attacker was still in an offside position - the referee will have to decide if he actually interferes. In this case watch how he intentionally blocks the one defender. This is interfering with an opponent.
LAFC v COL - This incident is handled well by the referee crew (with one minor suggestion). The AR has informed the referee that there is a player in offside position - even though it is obvious that he is. The beginning of the clip shows the referee being proactive, warning the player of the likelihood of him being called for offside. Once the free kick is taken and the ball is going in a direction near that player, the referee quickly calls the offside infraction to avoid any potential issues.
Didn't the referee need to wait to see if the attacker impedes an opponent? Not in this case, as the extreme position taken by the attacker would also be considered to impact on the goalkeeper who must adjust his positioning with that player in mind. You can also see how the attacker's position caused a defender to have to adjust their run. This is interfering with an opponent.
The minor suggestion here to the referee is to not leave his AR hanging. Let them know you are calling offside so they can raise the flag, which lets everyone know the decision on the field. Even though the offside looked to be obvious, the referee could have been calling a foul or whistling some other infraction. The AR is correct to raise their flag late, although admittedly, it does look awkward.
WINNER - CALL OF THE WEEK #24 - OSCAR MITCHELL-CARVALHO
CALL OF THE WEEK #25
You can either pick one of the delayed offside decisions in the Los Angeles area or go with a plain ole good no flag on a goal in Kansas City. Have at it.