Week #11 May 11 - 15

It was another good week for PRO MLS assistant referees as the continued emphasis on giving benefit of the doubt to the attack has led to some quality goals and exciting matches.  This week we look at several clips where positioning and movement played important roles in making the correct decision.  We will also analyze what an assistant referee should do when a defender goes down injured behind the play and finally, in Philadelphia the wall behind the wall free kick situation showed up again. Was it handled correctly?

Injured Defender Keeps Attackers Onside

PRO Training and Development Manager Paul Rejer has used this clip for his MLS Play of the Week and you should read his excellent comments about the correct procedure from a referees standpoint.  On this page we will look at it from the assistant referee's perspective. 
As you watch the clip keep an eye on the defender and notice how and when he goes down injured. This all happens in the clear view of the assistant referee which means he can give meaningful information to the referee.   As is too often the case, you will need to ignore the commentator's erroneous analysis. 
As an AR keep these procedures in mind when a defender goes down injured behind play.

  • Inform the referee that a player is down behind the play
  • Inform the referee that he should stop the game if the injury appears serious or is to the head
  • No matter what the cause of the injury, that defender is still potentially the second to last defender
  • No matter how long the player stays down, he still is potentially the second to last defender as long as he remains on the field of play

The assistant referee on this play has correctly stayed in position with the injured player as he is the second to last defender.  There is no offside on this play.  The crew is correct in not immediately stopping the play as the assistant can see that the injury is not to the head and does not appear serious.  Additionally, the injured player is not in the area of active play which might have been deemed dangerous.  
In most cases like this, the best moment for the referee to stop play is when the injured player's team mates have clear possession of the ball or when the opposing team no longer has a promising attack.
As Paul Rejer says in his analysis, if the commentators had their way and referees had to automatically stop the game, you could get defenders going down as a tactic to break up every promising attack.

The Importance of Recovery

It is very easy as an assistant referee to let your guard down when the ball is played out by the defense because there is very little chance that an offside situation will occur with the ball moving away from the goal.  However, one misplayed pass and all of a sudden you find yourself ill positioned to make a decision.
In this video clip from DC United vs NY Red Bulls, concentrate on the AR's movement.  He has done well to stay level with the second to last defender as the defense clears the ball, so when the unexpected steal and pass happens he is able to judge the attacker's position rather easily.  However since he appears to have relaxed a bit and his body is already facing up field, he has to make a complete turn and immediately make up ground to catch up with the attack.  Meaning that in the second phase of this offside situation (the cross) he will have to make a judgement from a less than ideal position.
The point being made here is that when the ball is moving away from goal and there is pressure on the ball you still need to maintain a square to field position, as best you can, so that you are ready to make a quick transition on a sudden change of possession.

The Importance of Positioning

These two clips are included this week simply to show that good position is the key to correct decisions. 
In Toronto, Giovinco scores a wonderful goal at the end of this play, but notice the tight offside decision when the pass is made.  This is a difficult decision because the ball is being played from the farthest point in the periphery of the AR but because he is perfectly position he can make this decision with confidence.

This decision in Philadelphia can only be made because the AR is perfectly in line with the second to last defender.  Imagine this AR's view of the play if you move him either a yard up field or a yard downfield.

Philadelphia Attempts the Wall Behind the Wall, Again....

You know that you have seen this before and at this rate, will see it again.  It is why it is important that you cover these types of situations in the pregame instructions every game.  Watch this video to see how this crew correctly handles this situation.

  • The assistant lets the referee know that the players are in a offside position.
  • The referee clearly tells the attackers that they will be called offside if they remain in that position when the ball is played.
  • The AR waits to see if the players get onside before the ball is played.

Since all of the offside positioned players that were in the wall do get to an onside position before the ball is played there is no offside on this free kick.

What do you think? Is this offside?

In Sporting Kansas City vs Orlando the ball is played thru to an offside positioned SKC player Dwyer but on the way it makes contact with an Orlando defender.  Was this a deliberate play or a deflection? 
Vote on what decision you would make.

Is this play offside?

Two Good Offside Decisions Resulting in Goals

Sporting Kansas City vs Orlando

We end this week's commentary with two quality offside decisions.  The first happening in Kansas City where the assistant has to make two back to back offside decisions, both correct.


DC United vs NY Red Bulls

The second situation happens in the DC United match and this time the assistant uses the "wait and see" technique as an onside attacker comes thru to take the pass that he turns into a goal.

Which decision do you think is more difficult for the assistant?

Which decision is more difficult?