US SoccerUS Soccer
wir subjpg.jpg

2010 Referee Week In Review - Week 17


The usssoccer.com 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 17 – Ending July 25, 2010
Offside decisions have always been a regular topic in “Week In Review,” including this season as analysis of the critical offside factors to be considered by match officials have been discussed numerous times. It is clear that the task of being an assistant referee is not an easy one. As a result, it is vital to regularly review decisions and the critical factors involved in offside decisions to ensure the mind’s eye is consistently trained to interpret offside factors in a split second. As a result, the focus of this “Week In Review” will be two offside decisions from the same game. Both decisions are difficult and, depending upon several factors, could be interpreted differently.

Week In Review Podcast: For each “Week In Review,” U.S. Soccer produces a related podcast that covers the topics of the week.

WEEK 17 COMMENTARY

Offside: Why and Why Not?

Last week, the “Week In Review 16” discussed “interfering with play” as it relates to offside decisions. This week, in addition to further “interfering with play” analysis, the aspect of “interfering with an opponent” will be reintroduced and become an important factor in a game critical offside decision.

“Interfering with an opponent” is defined as:

  • Preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or movement; and/or
  • Making a gesture or movement which, in the opinion of the referee, deceives or distracts an opponent.

Key to interpreting “interfering with an opponent” is match officials’ ability to determine whether the offside positioned player prevented the opponent (frequently the goalkeeper) from being able to see or play the ball because the location of the offside positioned player negatively impacted the opponent’s ability to play or see the ball.

One method for officials to use in deciding whether “interference with an opponent” has occurred is to ask yourself:

  1. If the potential offside player was removed from the picture/play, would the goal still have been scored?
    If yes, then the likelihood of offside is reduced. If no, then there is a greater likelihood for offside. In your mind’s eye, remove the offside positioned player from the picture/play and then make a determination as to whether the goal would still have been scored.
  2. If the potential offside player was removed from the picture/play, would the opponent (frequently the goalkeeper) have been able to make a reasonable play for the ball (prevent the goal or be able to play the ball)?
    If yes, then there is a greater likelihood for offside because the offside positioned player influenced the opponent’s ability to play the ball. If no, then, the likelihood for offside is reduced.

The intent of both of these questions is to provide a framework for evaluating the offside positioned player’s impact on the opponent. Match officials can quickly ask themselves these questions as they evaluate the potential for “interfering with an opponent.” The use of the wait and see technique advocated by U.S. Soccer can provide ARs the split second needed to ask themselves the questions and to assess the impact of the offside positioned player on the actions of the opponent.

Video Clip 1: San Jose at Los Angeles (71:01)
It is standard practice, at all levels, for attacking teams to place a player in front of or near the defending goalkeeper at the taking of a corner kick. This player is hoping to distract the keeper and make his play on the ball more difficult as well as hoping to use his position to play a ball in his vicinity. The positioning of the attacker near the goalkeeper should be a warning sign for referees and ARs as the position can lead to pushing and shoving as the goalkeeper, other defenders and the attacker jockey for the most advantageous position.

This clip illustrates the effect of an attacker positioning himself in the line of vision of the goalkeeper during the taking of a corner kick. The effect, in this case, is realized as an attacker redirects the ball toward the goal and a teammate is situated directly in the goalkeeper’s line of vision to the ball. For the purposes of this clip, assume that the attacking team plays or directs the ball toward the goal.

As soon as the AR determines that the ball is played, touched or shot to goal by an attacker, the AR must then assess the position of the furthermost attacker and determine if he is in an offside position. In this case, the attacker situated in front of the goalkeeper is in an offside position as there is only one player (the goalkeeper) between him and the goal line.

Lastly, the AR must decide if the offside positioned play “interfered with an opponent” by negatively impacting his ability to play the ball. This can be assessed using the two questions provided:

  1. If the potential offside player was removed from the picture/play, would the goal still have been scored?
    In this case, a goal is not scored directly from the first attacker’s touch of the ball.
  2. If the potential offside player was removed from the picture/play, would the opponent (frequently the goalkeeper) have been able to make a reasonable play for the ball (prevent the goal or be able to play the ball)?
    The offside positioned player is standing directly in the goalkeeper’s line of vision to the ball and prevents the keeper from having a clear view of the ball as it moves toward goal. If the attacker, in the offside position, were removed from the picture/play, the goalkeeper would have had a better opportunity to play or save the ball. Therefore, this player should be judged to have “interfered with an opponent” and offside as he clearly obstructs the goalkeeper’s line of vision.

In summary, the AR must determine:

  1. Who last played/touched the ball: An attacker or defender.
  2. If any attacker is in an offside position at the time the ball is played/touched by an attacking teammate.
  3. Does the offside positioned attacker “interfere with the opponent” (goalkeeper) by restricting his movement or play on the ball or by negatively impacting his line of vision to the ball and, thereby, affect his ability to make a play on the ball.

Note: In cases where an AR is unclear as to whether an offside positioned player either “interfered with an opponent” or “interfered with play” (played/touched the ball) and a goal is scored, the AR should stand at attention at the corner flag and refrain from running up the touchline which would normally signal a goal. By standing at attention and keeping the flag down, the AR is letting the referee know that there is a potential issue with the goal that has been scored and that the referee’s perspective is needed to assist with the decision. Often times, the referee is better positioned to make the determination as to whether an offside positioned player has “interfered with an opponent” as the referee’s angle of view is best suited for determining the impact the offside player had on the opponent. Additionally, the referee can often help with the “interfering with play” decision as the referee may be closer to the attacker who may have played or touched a ball.

Video Clip 2: San Jose at Los Angeles (58:42)
The offside decision in clip 2 requires the AR to rapidly evaluate two offside criteria: Interfering with play and interfering with an opponent. This decision requires acute concentration on the part of the AR as there is a player in an offside position who attempts to play the ball on the backside of the goalkeeper as well as an onrushing attacker on the far side of the goal who is onside.

The AR must make two determinations:

  1. Did the offside positioned player “interfere with play” by playing or touching the ball passed by his teammate?
    In this case, the offside positioned player does not play or touch the ball. As a consequence, he cannot be declared offside for “interfering with play.” In making the “interfering with play” determination, match officials should not consider an attempt to play the ball as is the case in this clip because to have “interfered with play,” the player in the offside position must play or touch the ball.
  2. Did the offside positioned player “interfere with an opponent” by preventing the opponent (goalkeeper, in this case) from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s (goalkeeper’s) line of vision or by obstructing his movements?
    Watch the offside positioned attacker’s run. It is made outside the goalkeeper’s direct line of vision of the ball. Since the run is made from the backside of the goalkeeper, this player does not prevent the keeper from playing the ball or from being able to play the ball. In addition, because the offside positioned player is approaching from behind the goalkeeper, he is not making a movement or gesture that can deceive or distract the goalkeeper and, therefore, prevent him from playing the ball.

The referee team is correct in awarding the goal as the offside positioned player has not interfered with play or with an opponent. Watch the video, as the play is briefly frozen (just before the pass), notice the goalkeeper’s focus: It is fully on the ball and not on the offside positioned player.

Review “Week In Review 5” for a similar clip and further explanation of “interfering with an opponent.”

Video Clip 3: Motagua (Honduras) at Toronto – CONCACAF Champions League (9:58)
As part of “Week In Review 12,” the concept of differentiating between playing and rebound examined as it relates to offside decisions. Remember, playing the ball by the defender should not be confused with a rebound or deflection in which the defender does not have the opportunity to play the ball.

This clip is an example of the ball rebounding off the defender. The defender does not have a “controlled” play of the ball, which is evidenced by the fact that he has to lunge to make contact with the ball and the ball deflects off his foot. The defender does not have a clear opportunity to control or play the ball due to its distance from him, and is merely attempting to reach out and block the pass from reaching its intended target. As a result, the decision to penalize for offside is correct.

Looking Forward – Week 18
As the second half of the season gets underway after the MLS All Star game, this would be a good time for match officials to review the 2009 Directive on “Game Disrepute and Mass Confrontation.” As teams gear up for the playoff run, games are certain to increase in emotion and intensity. Consequently, match officials need to be prepared to utilize the “Triangle of Control” to manage mass confrontation situations. Additionally, the use of techniques to prevent game disrepute from escalating into mass confrontation should be discussed during the pregame preparation.


×