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Penalty Kick Without Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity


When faced with a challenge in the Penalty Area, the Referee must make a decision regarding not only foul or no-foul, but whether misconduct has occurred. If a foul has been committed by a defender within the Penalty Area, the Referee must often additionally decide whether the foul denied an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (DOGSO-F) warranting the player to be sent off.

In the specified clip, the Atlanta attacker (orange shirt) plays a ball into the penalty area for a teammate to run onto. The ball lands to the left of the attacker, and two Washington defenders (red shirts) are in close proximity in addition to the goalkeeper. The Atlanta attacker is facing away from goal while trying to settle the ball from a high bounce, and the Washington defender (#8) commits a pushing foul from behind without any opportunity or attempt to play the ball. The challenge is a clear foul and a Penalty Kick should be awarded.

The question now arises as to whether this infraction meets the conditions of 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, the first condition is clearly met. The mitigating circumstances relate to “Direction of the play”, “Likelihood of gaining control of the ball” and “Location and number of defenders”. The Atlanta player is facing away from goal while she attempts to gain control of a high-bouncing ball. The time needed to control the ball and make the turn to face goal for a goal-scoring opportunity would have likely allowed the additional Washington defender (#23) to challenge for the ball. Together, these circumstances argue against the view that the conditions for DOGSO-F have been met. The foul in itself can be considered careless, but since it was committed to stop an attacking play a Caution for Unsporting Behavior (Tactical foul) is warranted.

The Referee’s positioning throughout the sequence creates difficulty relating to distance from play as well as angle of view. Facing the throw-in closes off the view from the majority of players, who provide the necessary information to see where the next decision will likely be. There is no imminent challenge to the Atlanta player with the ball, therefore the full focus of the Referee is not needed here. Turning towards the outside and facing in (rather than turning inside and facing out) would have put the Referee in a position to keep the Atlanta player with the ball, the remaining field players, and the Assistant Referee in view. Following the pass into the Penalty Area, the Referee would have been able to follow the play in with good proximity and angle, seeing the approach of the defender, the foul, and the elements involved in making the decision for misconduct.

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