By PRO Director of Training and Education Paul Rejer
In Play of the Week 15 we are discussing the use of the advantage clause with two examples from the MLS game between Sporting Kansas City and Montreal Impact.
One of the problems in world soccer, I believe, is the almost obsession of referees to play advantage when there is no genuine advantage to the offended team. Referees seem to be using possession as a criterion rather than advantage, and not considering what the preferential would be for the offended team.
In the first play, the ball gets played down the line by Sporting KC’s Ilie Sachez to teammate Gerson Fernandes, who gets impeded quite forcibly by Impact’s Kyle Fisher. The ball runs to teammate Dom Dwyer, who takes up possession.
Referee Robert Sibiga plays advantage as Dwyer has possession but, in these circumstances, referees need to read the game. In this situation, Dwyer is a lonely figure who has no-one to pass the ball to, and there are six opponents nearer to Dwyer than a teammate. This causes the temperature of the game to rise instantly and we see a couple of heavy challenges.
Applying advantage is always a risk when the players believe that a foul has been missed. Eventually, Sibiga realizes that no advantage is going to accrue and he wisely penalizes the original foul. Applying advantage was clearly a risk to his control with very little value. Penalizing the original foul immediately would have been safe refereeing and would have been accepted by everyone.
In the second play, SKC’s Benny Feilhaber is tripped by Impact’s Victor Cabrera. Sibiga goes to blow his whistle for the foul but he sees the ball going to Dwyer, who is surrounded by defenders and immediately loses possession of the ball.
In this case, the referee decides not to penalize the original offense but should have done so as Dwyer loses possession only two seconds after the foul. In this situation, Sibiga should always consider what is the best option for the offended team: possession when the forward is surrounded by defenders or a direct free-kick on the edge of the penalty area?
In summary, referees should always consider what the best option is for the offended team and read the game accordingly to decide. Possession alone should not be a consideration, and usually a direct free-kick is more advantageous to the offended team.
Here are four P’s to consider when applying advantage:
• Possession – active and credible control by the player fouled or by a teammate. Without possession, none of the other P’s matter
• Potential – probability of continuing an immediate attack or an attempt on goal
• Players – number and skill of attackers versus the number and skill of defenders
• Proximity – distance from goal