US SoccerUS Soccer
wir subjpg.jpg

2009 Referee Week in Review - Week 27

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
Week 27 – ending September 20, 2009
Five weeks remain in the MLS regular season. A single win, loss or tie may be the deciding factor in playoff participation. As the pressure increases for the players and coaches, they concurrently rise for match officials. Every decision is magnified and, as a consequence, officials must take every measure to ensure the referee team is prepared to correctly address each decision.

This past week saw several referees step up to the pressure and correctly address the challenges presented. On the other hand, several referees failed to grasp the moment and, as a consequence, decisions did not pass the litmus test as they potentially impacted the outcome of various games.

The importance of the games was also exhibited in the often behavior/actions of the players and coaches who resorted to dissent and various forms of game disrepute even when a referee’s decision was clearly correct. Referees must be prepared mentally for such negative reaction and take a proactive stance. If, after taking preventative measures, the players persist, the referee must send a strong message (through the use of the yellow and red card for dissent; unsporting behavior or offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures; or dismissal of non-rostered personnel for irresponsible behavior) that such behavior will not be tolerated.

U.S. Soccer has now made all prior “Week In Review” clips available for download and, therefore, for instructional purposes. At the conclusion of each month, the clips will be archived and available for use by “Week In Review” readers. Remember, each clip has a specific instructional message that has accompanied it in the “Week In Review.” The integrity of the message and the corresponding clip should be paramount as this will enable the soccer community to drive toward consistency in interpretation and application.


Tackles and AR Involvement – Leading to a Penalty Kick: Law 12
Referees must anticipate. Anticipation leads to better strategic position and optimum angles of vision. Anticipation means reading play and having an understanding of the tactical nature of play by moving one’s self to the next phase of play before it occurs. Feeling, reading, anticipating, preventing….these are all words that require the referee to be thinking during both dynamic (ball moving) and static (dead ball) play.

Assistant referees (ARs) must also possess the same “anticipation” characteristic and use it to help direct their focus, their line of vision and their movement. Often times the ARs success at anticipating the next phase of play will also dictate their involvement and the need to have had a visual confirmation of the referee’s position and location on the field of play.

Based upon the referee’s position and angle of vision and the ARs view of an incident on the field, the AR may need to be involved in making a “game critical decision.” U.S. Soccer’s 2009 Referee Program Directive, “Assistant Referee Involvement,” provides guidance for officials regarding AR involvement or assistance in the game.

Video Clip 1: New England at New York (47:36)
Anticipation leading to proper positioning which thereby creates the optimum angle of vision is a factor that is missing in this clip. The referee must “read” the play and the corresponding warning signs that a position with close proximity to the action and the next phase of play is critical. The second half is merely 2:36 old and referee teams cannot come out of the locker room unprepared or with a low intensity level. Awareness, focus and concentration for the entire 90 minutes or more must be present.

As you watch the clip, you will notice that the referee is never in the picture frame when the attack is entering the penalty area with a 1-0 score line. When the ball is around and preparing to enter the penalty area, this is a warning sign to the referee that presence is needed. This is amplified by the fact that the attacker may end up going to goal with the ball and the defender may need to make a challenge to dispossess the striker of the ball.

As the ball moves, the referee must move. As the play unfolds and builds, the referee must anticipate and move to ensure he has the best sightline to any potential challenge. This was not the case in this clip and the result is a missed penalty kick decision which could have tied the score. Remember, closeness to a play while maintaining an optimal angle of vision, without interfering, facilitates the referee making correct and educated decisions while aiding in the “salesmanship” of the decision. In this illustration, there is a clear trip of the attacker which should result in a penalty kick.

Given the fact the referee is improperly positioned which results in a poor angle to view the offense, the AR must then decide whether his involvement is needed in this game critical decision.

Initially, the ARs primary focus is on an offside positioned teammate who is ahead of the attacker with the ball. However, that focus needs to shift between the two attackers to determine the last touch by a teammate.

The close position of the two attackers should make the shifting of views and focus easier than if they were further apart across the field or as a result of one attacker being further ahead of his teammate.

The AR needs to see the defender's contact prior to the attacker playing the ball.

The AR has the best angle of view and is not obstructed by any players.

Upon viewing the challenge, the AR needs to quickly assess the referee's position and view of the contact. The AR can accomplish this through eye contact with the referee to determine whether his help is needed by the referee.

If eye contact indicates the referee is looking for help, the AR needs to assist by raising and giving a slight wave of the flag (indicating that a foul has occurred). Once the referee whistles, the AR moves the flag to the position indicated in the picture to the right. As the referee signals for the penalty kick, the AR should smartly move toward the corner flag to take up a position along the goal line and 18 yard intersection for a penalty kick.

If eye contact indicates the referee is not looking for help and does not recognize the foul, the AR must make a decision whether assistance is needed to help the referee or if the game demands the ARs involvement. Given this scenario, the AR must ask, “If the referee had clearly seen the action and contact by the defender from the ARs view, would the referee have determined a foul was committed and awarded a penalty?”

If the answer is “yes,” as it should be in this clip, the AR must then make the determination that his involvement is required to serve the game. Consequently, the AR must provide assistance to the referee and indicate a foul has been committed by the defender inside the penalty area using the same mechanics described above.

Red Card Challenges: Law 12
The following three clips provide examples of three red card challenges. Two of the challenges were dealt with correctly by the referee. As you examine the clips, apply the criteria provided by U.S. Soccer in the “100% Misconduct – Tactical and Red Card Tackles” directive. Additionally, a review of “Week In Review 25” will provide further clarification on the necessary criteria.

In summary, a referee must consider:

  1. Excessive force and the endangering the safety of the opponent (the action is in danger of injuring the opponent).
  2. SIAPOA:
    • Speed of play and the tackle
    • Intent
    • Aggressive nature
    • Position of the tackler
    • Opportunity to play the ball
    • Atmosphere of the game

Video Clip 2: Chivas USA at Seattle (70:46)
Despite the unnecessary protests of the players in which the referee does a good job of deflecting, the player should be sent off (red carded) for violent conduct (the second jab of his cleats into the opponent’s face makes the red card for violent conduct as the ball is not within playing distance at this time). Although not clear in the video clip, the referee is well positioned to have a clear and unobstructed view of the incident. The defender attempts to disguise his violent actions as playing the ball but the referee is not tricked. The location of the defender’s foot is not a natural position and the hard surface of his cleats connects with the soft surface of the opponent’s face. Hence, the defender is in danger of injuring his opponent. Notice the excessive force used to make the contact and how the defender goes at the opponent with a straight leg. The location of the ball makes it almost impossible to play the ball and compete fairly without endangering the attacker’s safety.

Video Clip 3: Real Salt Lake at Houston (30:55)
This is a late tackle that uses excessive force while placing the opponent’s safety at risk. The tackle also contains all the SIAPOA characteristics. A red card for serious foul play is correctly issued by the referee.

Watch as the defender makes an uncontrolled tackle that throws his entire body through the legs of the opponent. The speed and force of the tackle does not give the attacker any opportunity to play out of it, avoid the contact or protect himself.

Video Clip 4: Columbus at Chicago (6:25)
Just 6:25 into the game (a factor that should not affect the referee’s decision), the referee is moving up field and is in a good position to view the ball and any challenge for the ball. As opposed to video clip 1, the referee has given himself an opportunity to make an educated and correct decision as he has created a good angle of vision (refer to Image 1). The referee has shown urgency in his movement and anticipating the ball being played up field out of the penalty area.

This video clip provides an example of a tackle that should result in a red card for serious foul play. A key to making the red card determination is the distance from which the tackle is initiated. Image 1 provides a still shot of the distance (four to five yards) from which the defender initiates the tackle. Distance leads to increased or excessive force and the inability for the defender to control his challenge.

Both Images 2 and 3 provide a clear view of the location of the ball relative to the challenger’s leading foot at the time of contact. It is clear that the ball is not within playing distance. Both the position of the ball and the attacker (at the time of the tackle) make a fair challenge, committed with speed, nearly impossible as there is no opportunity to play the ball without going through the opponent. Tacklers have the responsibility to time their tackles in a manner that gives them the opportunity to play the ball without injuring the opponent.


As you view the clip, watch the body language of the tackler as he “pursues” the opponent with the ball. It is aggressive and seemingly has a sole goal: send a message to the opponent. Messages involving excessive force must result in a red card.

The clip shows the referee immediately pulling out his yellow card as he sprints to the scene. In critical decisions like this, it is best that the referee use the time to arrive at the foul, to consider his options and play the tackle back in his mind. This extra time or pause gives the match official the opportunity to consider the criteria and to replay the action in his mind prior to committing to a decision.

Looking Forward – Week 28
Getting the call right must be the theme for every decision. It is not important which match official (the referee, AR or fourth official) makes the call. What is important is that the referee team makes the best and most educated decision. Officials should not rush to judgment when the situation does not require an immediate decision. Take the time to consider the options, to replay the scenario, to seek input from the rest of the crew and to consider the necessary criteria. Then, make the most educated or informed decision.