By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer
In Play of the Week 3 we are discussing violent conduct in the Philadelphia Union versus FC Dallas game in the 41st minute.
Firstly, let’s look at how the Laws of the Game describe violent conduct:
‘A player is guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when not challenging for the ball.
‘He is guilty of violent conduct if he uses excessive force against a team-mate, spectator, match official or any other person.
‘Violent conduct may occur either on the field of play or outside its boundaries, whether the ball is in play or not.
‘Advantage should not be applied in situations involving violent conduct unless there is a clear subsequent opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player guilty of violent conduct when the ball is next out of play.
‘Referees are reminded that violent conduct often leads to mass confrontation; therefore they must try to avert this with active intervention.
‘A player, substitute or substituted player who is guilty of violent conduct must be sent off.’
In this play, Union’s Zach Pfeffer goes into a challenge with Dallas’ Mauro Diaz and appears to throw his left arm up at Diaz, striking him in the face with his elbow.
If we consider Law criteria, this has to be an act of violent conduct as it meets the criteria of excessive force and brutality. Blows to the head are dangerous and can have serious repercussions, causing injury and concussion.
Striking players in the head was an area covered when conducting preseason presentations to all the MLS players at their various club camps. A montage was shown of a number of occasions last season when players had been guilty of striking opponents in the head and were not detected by match officials.
The reason for match officials not seeing and recognizing these types of offenses can be due to a number of reasons, but not being appropriately positioned is the most common.
It is, therefore, of vital importance that the referee obtains the optimum position as the AR’s and the 4th Official’s positions are limited and prescriptive. He must also be aware and anticipate the potential of such an act taking place. Referees naturally go through the thought process of seeing, recognizing and acting.
This was an example of excellent refereeing practice from center official Jose Carlos Rivero, who was assigned to the game at PPL Park.
He was in the optimum position to see due to his flexible and intelligent positioning – not too close but not too far away. He was also aware and anticipated the possibility of such an offense taking place and, as he had obtained an optimum distance, he was able to scan the action and impact, not necessarily focusing on one area such as the feet and risking missing the aerial challenge.
He therefore recognized then moved quickly to the incident as he knew, as per the advice in Law, that there is always the potential of mass confrontation following such incidents.
He acted quickly, convincingly, decisively, and correctly sent Pfeffer from the field.