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2010 Referee Week In Review Week 1

The Referee Week in Review is designed to address the issues facing referees at all levels by using video highlights from professional games as well as the U.S. National Teams. Written by U.S. Soccer Director of Referee Development Paul Tamberino and U.S. Soccer Manager of Assessment and Training Brian Hall, the Referee Week in Review will highlight specific areas of focus and current U.S. Soccer initiatives designed to improve performance and aid in the development of officials across the country.

Week In Review 2010
Week 1 – ending March 28, 2010
After four months of offseason recovery and training, the professional season kicked off once more with eight challenging games during the opening weekend of Major League Soccer. To prepare for the “first kick”, referees and assistant referees (ARs) worked preseason matches to fine tune their competitive spirit and attended extensive preseason training in which their fitness level and knowledge of U.S. Soccer training materials (such as the “Week In Review” and position papers) released over the past year were tested. The most important part of preseason preparation, however, was the instruction geared around key focus areas for the upcoming season. For 2010, referees are being asked to focus on game and player management through “command presence” and increasing their “feel” for the needs of the game and ensuring their management decisions mirror the game and the situation. Listen to this week’s WIR Podcast.


Denying an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity: Law 12

Denying an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity (DOGSO) decisions are becoming more frequent at all levels of the game. There are several reasons for the growing number of these red card offenses, but the speed of the game and the utilization of quick counter attacks are the top contributing factors. When speedy attackers get behind the defensive line, often defenders are required to use illegal methods to slow the rushing attacker down.

U.S. Soccer established the “4 D Criteria” to guide officials with making the often critical decision of DOGSO.

  • Distance to goal
    The distance between the offence and the goal must be considered. The closer to goal, the increased likelihood of the existence of a goal scoring opportunity.
  • Distance to ball
    Attackers who have clear possession of the ball are more likely to have an obvious goal scoring opportunity. However, referees must “feel” the situation and consider that the Laws of the Game also require the referee to evaluate the “likelihood of keeping or gaining possession of the ball.”
  • Defender position/location and number
    The location of and number of defenders involved in the scoring opportunity is an important factor. The closer the defender(s) are to the opponent with the ball, the increased opportunity they have to prevent a scoring opportunity. Additionally, the position or location of these defenders is an important component. A defender may be in front of the ball, yet he may be positioned such that he cannot prevent the scoring opportunity. In this case, the referee may decide that this defender has no influence on the potential outcome and still consider an obvious goal scoring opportunity exists.
  • Direction to goal
    The direction the attacker is taking toward the goal must be considered. Attackers in the center of the field moving directly to goal have a better chance to score than an attacker moving/dribbling away from the goalmouth.

Keys to successful execution are:

  1. Referee position
    Referees must be positioned appropriately and moving quickly to enhance their angle of vision of the offense. Since counter attacks often lead to DOGSO events, referees must be prepared to accelerate/sprint to maintain a close distance to any challenge. Anticipation and the ability to “read” the next phase of play is an important component in successful positioning and observation. The referee’s first few steps or sprints are vital as they set-up the angle of vision. Referees must consider whether two quick inside steps or outside steps will best serve him in establishing a line of vision that allows him to see the light between the players challenging for the ball. 
  2. Scan of the field
    Prior to making the final decision but immediately upon blowing the whistle, the referee should scan the field of play to determine whether the “4 Ds” are observable. Prior to pulling the red card, a good tactic is for the referee to rapidly scan the field and look for each of the “4 D” components. If there is any doubt and, as a result, the decision is not obvious, the referee should refrain from red carding for DOGSO. This does not preclude the referee from cautioning the defender for unsporting behavior.
  3. Input from AR
    As part of the referee’s scanning of the field, eye contact with the lead AR is appropriate. With a different angle of vision and an additional perspective regarding the existence of the “4 Ds,” the AR can quietly assist the referee in his decision. Quick eye contact and a nod of the head to confirm DOGSO is useful or a the use of a prearranged signal like patting the appropriate pocket indicating red card or yellow card. Situations like this and the communication mechanics should be covered in the pregame match official meeting.

Video Clip 1: Real Salt Lake at San Jose (52:12)
This clip is a good test for not only the referee but also for the lead AR. In this situation, the referee and AR must make two quick decisions: DOGSO and location of foul (inside or outside of the penalty area).

    In this case, all “4 Ds” are present and a red card is correctly issued for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. The attacker has made his touch on the ball and is behind the defensive line going directly to goal (the attacker’s touch was toward the goal) and is near the top of the penalty area (a short distance from the goal). If it were not for the holding foul committed by the defender, the attacker would have had an obvious opportunity to score a goal.
  • Location of Foul
    The referee correctly decides that DOGSO exists due to the holding offense committed by the defender. Now, the referee must decide whether the location of the foul was inside the penalty area (and would result in a penalty kick) or outside the penalty area. In order to properly evaluate this call, the referee must coordinate with the lead AR. The lead AR has the best view of the top of the penalty area and, as a result, can provide valuable information regarding the location of the foul. In this situation, the holding starts and ends outside the penalty area and the game should be restarted with a direct free kick.

    FIFA’s “Interpretation of the laws of the game and guidelines for referees” provides valuable guidance to match officials relative to holding offenses. The guidelines state:

    “If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues holding him inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick.”

    In this situation, good cooperation and communication between the referee and his lead AR determine that the holding did not continue inside the penalty area. As a result, a direct free kick should be awarded outside the penalty area. Pursuant to U.S. Soccer guidelines, the AR should stand at attention, with the flag at his side, to indicate to the referee that the foul has occurred outside the penalty area.

Getting the First Foul: Law 12

Slow reactions by officials to identify a foul can lead to subsequent fouls. Referees must be quick to identify simple fouls, with the goal of preventing escalation. Sometimes referees focus on the feet when identifying illegal challenges. Although referees have more options relative to upper body contact (legal upper body contact is a normal occurrence), they must understand how upper body contact can influence or affect subsequent challenges on/for the ball by putting an opponent off balance or giving them an unfair advantage as they attempt to win the ball.

Video Clip 2: Houston at Dallas (18:03)

The Houston player (orange jersey) turns to shield the ball from an onrushing opponent. As he turns, the opponent makes a slight push in his back causing him to lose his balance. This push sets up the ensuing careless tackle on the ball in which the Dallas player goes through the Houston player to attempt to win the ball. The Dallas player’s first contact is not on the ball but to the knee region of the Houston player. Seeing the push and the careless tackle, the referee must recognize that a foul has occurred and quickly stop play. This “quick” whistle will prevent escalation.

Look at the warning signs of potential escalation in this situation:

  • Player on the ground
  • Player standing over an opposing player on the ground
  • Ball caught between the legs of the player on the ground with the potential for a dangerous scenario where the opponent kicks the ball or player

The referee must recognize the early push and subsequent careless challenge for the ball and award Houston with a direct free kick.

Offside: Law 11

Concentration and vision (peripheral vision) are key factors in ARs being able to correctly disseminate offside from onside. The job of the AR is not easy given the wide angle of vision they must use to view the play and assist in making game critical offside decisions. ARs must use their peripheral vision in order to see the following attributes regardless of where these attributes are on the field of play:

  • The ball
  • The touch on or pass of the ball by the attacker
  • The second-to-last defender
  • Positions of the multiple attackers with the opportunity to play a touched or passed ball

Often times long distances and players moving in opposite directions can negatively impact correct offside decisions by ARs. As a consequence, ARs must do everything possible to ensure they have the best angle of vision to make the correct decision, and not let outside distractions interfere with their concentration and focus. Sidestepping and keeping shoulders square to the field and play can be vital in successfully interpreting offside scenarios.

Video Clip 3: Philadelphia at Seattle (80:41)

In this clip, the AR disallows a valid goal for a nonexistent offside. At the time the ball is passed by the wide attacker, both attacking players are in an onside position. Hence, either attacking player could have played the ball and not be considered offside. A goal should have been given in this case. Given the close nature of the play, the AR should also consider U.S. Soccer’s advice to ARs: give the benefit of doubt to the attack and if in doubt, keep the flag down.

The ARs decision is complicated by the fact the player who passes the ball is very wide, up the touchline from the AR. This makes the ARs view of the ball difficult as he must be able to see the touch of the ball as well as the offside line. In order to assist the AR with making the correct decisions, ARs are encouraged to consider stepping back from the touchline a yard or more. By taking a step or two back, the AR widens his peripheral vision and increases the likelihood that he has a better view of the wide attacker’s pass of the ball.

Looking Forward – Week 2
After a solid opening week of performances, match officials must continue to be mentally focused and physically prepared for every situation. Mental focus and concentration will assist officials with maintaining a high level of performance early in the season.