Week #16 June 22-26

In this week's review we will decipher what to do with a free kick in Philadelphia.  We will also look at two missed offside situations and how to correct them. In the first, movement seems to be the problem and in the second, sorting out players at the taking of a free kick most likely contributed to the error. Finally, we point out some quality assistant referee work in Dallas. 

Philadelphia Free Kick Offside Situation

This season Philadelphia has been presenting various looks on free kick situations near the penalty area with players positioned offside.  We analyze the latest situation because it varies enough from the previous "wall behind a wall" tactic.   Whenever this happenswe are faced with going back to the law and the additional guidance FIFA provides.  Soccer is a fluid game and coaches will always create new tactics and as such we have to be able to constantly assess the live situations. The last thing we want from PRO ARs is to become robotic.  So, after deliberating with several sources inside and out of PRO, this situation is considered to not be offside.
Let's break it down by looking at each of the three players who tactically positioned themselves in offside positions before the free kick is taken.  (The third player comes into view at the bottom of the screen.)

  • I'm sure we all agree that the third attacker (bottom) is clearly not involved and his actions have no impact as the ball goes in the opposite direction.
  • For the attacking player standing in front of the goalkeeper:  
    • If he stays there and the ball is shot towards goal, this would likely either impede the vision of the goalkeeper or have an impact on the goalkeeper.  So if that happened: offside.
    • In the situation we are looking at,  he is approximately 10 yards away from the goalkeeper at the moment the ball is played.  If the ball was shot towards goal, you would have to determine if he impeded the keeper's vision or had an impact.  In this instance, considering the location of the free kick and the distance the attacker is from the GK, I would argue no impact and no offside.
  • For the attacker nearest the assistant.
    • if the ball comes towards him (as it does in the video) we have to consider if there is any action that impacts an opponent.  Most likely that would be actual contact with a defender or impeding the defender's movement.  Watching this clip you will notice that the defenders are not impeded and that is why, in this situation, it is not offside.

 Main point: There has to be some impact.

Movement in Philadelphia and Orlando

Take into account the game situation: Philadelphia is down 1-3, 2:30 from the end of additional time. Time to relax, game is over.  Not.

This is a double offside situation as players look to be even on the initial free kick.  The defense seems to have made a good clearance and here is where the AR makes an error in movement.  By turning his body completely up field he has not anticipated the next phase of play so that when the shot comes he is still moving in the opposite direction, facing the wrong way and by the time he can make himself square to the field it is too late.

  • Don't lose focus at the end of matches even if it seems to be "over".  (This game ends 2-3)
  • Side stepping, square to the field is always optimal.  Only turn your body up field if speed requires it or there is clearly no offside situation about to happen.
  • Read the play.  From the moment the player brought down the ball with his chest all his movements are announcing a shot, at that point you should already be square to the field anticipating having to make a decision.   Watch the picture in picture to notice the delay in realizing that a shot was coming.

Somewhat similar to Philadelphia we also have a double offside situation that requires quick movement from the AR.   In this case the final decision is correct, but the movement is not optimal and one has to wonder how sure the AR was of his decision. Notice again how the AR has turned his body completely up field as the ball is played out and not anticipated the next phase of play which is going to be a thru ball.  Is the second to last defender moving at a pace that requires him to run or can he stay square to the field by side stepping? 
I would suggest raising your work rate and tempo by side stepping square to the field when there is activity in the penalty area and the next phase of play is pointing towards an offside decision.

Concentration on Free Kicks

On free kicks, where players are all lined up evenly it is difficult to spot every player that might become involved in the cross that is anticipated.  It is suggested then that you take a mental picture at the moment the ball is played and mentally track only those players that were in an offside position.  Anyone else that plays the ball would be onside.
In this situation there are two players that appear to be offside, Portland's Adi in the center of the area and Ridgewell, nearest the AR.   Capture that in your mind.  The player who eventually plays the ball is hidden between two defenders and since you did not mentally capture him offside (it's not Adi or Ridgewell)  you can confidently allow play to continue.

That Moment When the Referee is the Second to Last Defender

How about this for a situation made even more difficult by the referee's positioning.  However, even in this situation it is critical to keep concentration on those straggling defenders, especially on the far side of the AR.  If you are positioned even with that last defender and are side stepping up with him then you will have a better chance of making the correct decision no matter who stands in your way.

Staying Awake in Dallas

You can never let your guard down and take a quick break during a match even when play is stopped for a foul.  Watch this clip and concentrate on the movement and body language of assistant referee Adam Garner as he reads FC Dallas' intention of playing a free kick quickly.    Notice how he has already squared himself to the field and everything about his body position and attitude says "I'm ready".  This is quality.