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2011 Referee Week in Review - Week 24

Referee Week in Review – Week 24

The Situation: Toronto FC is leading San Jose 1-0 in the 74th minute. 

The Play: A through ball is played to a Toronto FC forward in an onside position. The assistant referee raises his flag to signal for offside and play is stopped. 

My Take: When the pass is made by the attacking team, the forward is in line with the defenders and not in an offside position. The assistant referee’s ability to make the correct call is compromised because of his positioning. Here we see the assistant referee is slightly ahead of the second to last defender at the time the ball is played. This position impacts his ability to judge the angle and the location of the attacker in relation to the defenders. The assistant referee’s responsibility to call offside can be a difficult task and here we see how proper positioning and concentration are critical to being able to make the correct call. 

The Laws of the Game: Law 11 is clear in the explanation that a player is not in an offside position if the player is level with the second-last opponent or if the player is level with the last two opponents.


The Situation: Real Salt Lake is leading Chivas USA 1-0 in the 24th minute of play. 

The Play: The ball is played towards the Real Salt Lake defender and his first touch goes into space. A forward from Chivas USA seizes on this opportunity by getting a touch on the ball and moving towards goal. The defender grabs the attacker and drags him down outside the penalty area. The referee calls the foul and sends off the defender for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. 

My Take: The defender clearly reaches out and fouls the attacking player outside the penalty area. As the play develops, the referee must consider the following elements:

  1. Number of defenders
        --Here we see there is a trailing defender in the center of the field but he is not in a position to impact the play. 
  2. Distance to goal
    --The attacker is just outside of the penalty area when fouled. 
  3. Distance to the ball
    --The attacker would have had the opportunity to continue playing the ball if he wasn’t held by the opponent. 
  4. Direction of play
    --The attacker is clearly moving towards goal at the time of the foul.

When considering these four elements, the referee correctly issues the red card for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. 

The Laws of the Game: Law 12 deals with fouls and misconducts. This issue is covered in more depth and referred to as the 4 Ds in Advice to Referees in section 12.37 – Judging an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity:

  • Defenders – not more than one defender between the foul and goal
  • Distance to goal – the closer the foul is to the goal, the more likely it is an obvious goal scoring opportunity
  • Distance to ball – the attacker must have been close enough to the ball at the time of the foul to continue playing the ball
  • Direction of play – the attacker must have been moving toward the goal at the time the foul was committed

Michael Kennedy is a current MLS referee and has officiated in the league since its founding in 1996. In addition to serving as a professional referee, he has also represented U.S. Soccer as both a FIFA referee and assistant referee.