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2011 Referee Week in Review - Week 1

Major League Soccer – Week 1
FC Dallas vs. Chicago Fire

The Situation:  The score is tied 1-1 in the 55th minute of the game.

The Play: Dallas has possession and the ball is passed back to a central defender inside the Dallas defensive half about 10 yards beyond the midfield line. The defender is quickly put under pressure after his first touch allows a Chicago forward the ability to steal possession of the loose ball. The forward takes a good first touch that directs him away from the defender (the last defender) and creates a clear path towards goal. In an attempt to hinder the Chicago forward’s movement, the Dallas defender makes contact with the attacker, causing the forward to go to the ground.

The Decision: The referee stops play for the foul and issues a red card to the Dallas defender. 

My Take:  This is the correct decision. The Chicago forward clearly got past the defender – who is the last defender in this situation – and would have had an opportunity to continue towards goal for a scoring opportunity. Denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity is a sending-off offense (see Law 12 below). While the foul by the Dallas defender isn’t reckless or excessive, the defender still makes enough contact to prevent the attacking player from continuing his path towards goal.

The Laws of the Game:  Law 12 (Fouls and Misconduct) dictates that a player or substituted player is sent off if they commit any of the seven sending-off offenses.  Among these offenses is denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or penalty kick.