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Penalty Kick with Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity


Anticipation is often discussed in the context of a Referee reading the options available to players and basing movement and positioning on where and what the next decision will likely be (the “next phase of play”). Similarly, anticipation by the Assistant Referee allows them to initiate movement so that an accurate offside decision can be made while staying with advancing play and while locked into the Second-To-Last-Defender (STLD).

An important aspect of teamwork, however, is being able to anticipate when circumstances warrant extra support of a crewmate’s duties. An increasingly common scenario is when a team begins a counterattack, bypassing the midfield and sending a long ball towards advancing forwards.

In the specified clip, the Philadelphia midfielder (yellow shirt) sees an off-ball run by her teammates and sends a long ball behind the defense. The visual cue for the Referee that a long ball is imminent is that the midfielder has space, is under no defensive pressure, and that the forward’s run allows a direct attack towards goal. The Referee should already be close to a full sprint when the ball is released by the midfielder. The Assistant Referee needs to be aware of the Referee’s positioning behind play and be prepared to extend their patrol area (“area of control”) farther out than usual to assist with fouls and misconduct once the offside decision is made. Here, a misplay by the defender creates a situation where the attacker and goalkeeper are running directly towards each other for a 50/50 ball inside the penalty area – focus and concentration by both the Referee and Assistant Referee must be on who makes contact with the ball first in order to judge whether a foul has occurred and who has committed it. The Philadelphia attacker beats the goalkeeper to the ball and touches it over her in an attempt to gain an advantageous position and make a final touch of the ball into the goal. Conversely, the goalkeeper makes no contact with the ball and instead uses her gloved fists to make contact with the attacker above the shoulders that takes her down. The challenge is a clear foul and a penalty kick must be awarded.

The question now arises as to misconduct. The severity of the foul itself must be considered in terms of careless, reckless, and excessive force. The goalkeeper approaches the ball with clenched fists in an attempt to punch it away, but instead makes contact solely with the attacker’s head and facial area. The goalkeeper leads with the fists and jumps at and into the opponent, far from where the jump was initiated. Together, these factors endanger the safety of the opponent and a red card for Serious Foul Play is warranted.

Had the challenge not involved excessive force and endangered the safety of an opponent, the infraction nevertheless meets the conditions of denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity to an opponent (DOGSO-F), which are summarized with “the 4 D’s”:

  1. Distance between the offence and the goal 
  2. Distance (likelihood) of keeping or gaining control of the ball 
  3. Direction of the play 
  4. Location and number of Defenders

In this clip, all conditions are met. Distance between the offence and the goal is short (approximately 13 yards), likelihood of the attacker keeping control of the ball is high (slow pace of the ball before exiting the field), direction of play is directly towards goal, and the closest defender has no realistic play on the ball. Together, these factors determine that the conditions for DOGSO-F have been met and that a red card is warranted.

As counterattacks become more and more frequent, the likelihood of the Referee becoming caught behind play increases. For teamwork to be effective, the Assistant Referee must not only be prepared to make an offside decision, but then must quickly switch focus to assist with fouls and misconduct. Such counterattacks often require such a decision within 30 yards of goal, implying that tactical fouls and fouls that deny an obvious goal scoring opportunity become high-impact probabilities that require decisiveness and efficient communication between the Assistant Referee and the Referee. Such communication should be specifically addressed during the pregame conference. Simultaneously, it is incumbent upon the Referee to invoke a maximum sprint speed and consciously move to a position that will afford them the best angle of view in order to accurately judge the play. Often the most efficient path to such an angle will be to the right side of the ball rather than to the traditional left side.

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