Week #8 April 23-24

The focus of referee decision in MLS this week was centered on a couple of missed tackles. Could the assistants have helped out? As usual there were many offside decisions, but this week there were several where the referee and assistant needed to work together to correctly connect all the pieces of the offside puzzle.  


Columbus vs Houston - Deliberate Play, Referee Communication Mechanics

Those familiar with this situation know that a DOGSO situation develops right after this offside decision.  For this discussion we are going to ignore that DOGSO argument as Paul Rejer has already explained it here.  I have cut it off from the end of this clip.  We are only looking at the offside situation.  This is a deliberate play by the Houston defender because he deliberately moves his foot to intercept the pass in an effort to steal the ball, but is unfortunate not to control it to himself or a teammate. 
Looking at the freeze frame of that moment and you can see that it would be difficult for the AR to see this play accurately -  was it deliberate or a deflection?  In their pregame the referee said he would say "defender", however, in the heat of the moment that didn't happen and so when the flag went up the referee said "no, no, no, he is good".  The assistant correctly then puts his flag down and continues with play.

Here is how it would go in a perfect world.

  • Referee immediately initiates communication with "defender, defender, defender"
    • flag stays down


  • AR delays flag, if not sure who last played it
    • Asks referee for confirmation - "Who played it? Who played it? Who played it?"
    • Referee says "defender, defender, defender"
    • flag stays down

DC United v New England - Interfering with Opponent

Similar to the Columbus clip, the near side assistant did raise his flag (not seen on this video) because, although he can see that the NE defender's play is deliberate, he also believes that, from his angle, DC player Saborio is close enough to the NE defender to impact his actions.  The referee agrees that it is a deliberate play, however from his angle of view he can see that Saborio's actions do not impact the defender.  Since the flag is up and a goal is scored, The referee and assistant consult face to face and they correctly allow the goal to stand. 
As a refresher, FIFA states as part of their definition of interfering with an opponent - "clearly attempts to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent"
"Clearly attempts" - is used so a player coming from a distance is not penalized
"Close" - is meant so a player is not penalized for a ball clearly going over his head or clearly in front of him. (As is the case in this play)
"Impacts" applies to an opponent’s ability (or potential) to play the ball and will
include situations where an opponent’s movement to play the ball is delayed, hindered or prevented by the offside player.

Here is how it would go in a perfect world.

  • AR allows play to continue because it is a deliberate play
  • Goal is scored
  • AR stands at attention at corner flag because he has doubts as to how close Saborio was to the defender
  • AR tells referee that he believes attacker's action may have impacted the opponent
  • Referee tells him no and play re starts with a kick off.

New York Red Bulls v Orlando - Gaining an Advantage

I the first phase of this offside situation (the shot on goal) the assistant referee determines that NYRB #99 is in an offside position, but he cannot tell if he interfered with the keeper's line of vision so he correctly does not raise his flag at that moment.  However, the offside player scores off the rebound and completes the puzzle for gaining an advantage.  At this point the flag should be raised and there should be no reason for the referee and assistant to confer as even though #99 may have interfered with an opponent he has gained an advantage.

San Jose v Sporting Kansas City - Assisting the Referee

Image 1

Image 1

In this clip we have a referee that gets caught behind play by a quick transition and a long pass.  Image 1 shows the relative locations and angles of the AR and the referee at the start of the play.  No matter how fast the referee is, once this pass is made, it becomes the assistant referee's responsibility to manage until the referee can regain a good vantage point.  The referee should ask for help and the assistant should already know that he will be closer and have a better view of the play until the referee can catch up.  Knowing that he is in a credible position, closer than the referee and has a better angle the AR needs to take part in making this difficult decision.

Image 2

Image 2

Sporting Kansas City v Colorado - No offside and Goal

We will end this week's review with one of the many positive offside decisions where MLS assistant referees' good movement and square to field positioning helped them judge offside correctly.