Play of the Week 21: Offside – interfering with an opponent

In the latest Play of the Week of the 2017 series, we are discussing one of the three offside offenses, namely “interfering with an opponent”.

Firstly, let’s examine what the law says specifically about interfering with an opponent:

“A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by:

Interfering with an opponent by:

– Preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision
– Challenging an opponent for the ball
– Clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent or
making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball”

The play in question this week is from the game between Houston Dynamo and Portland Timbers.

As the ball is played forward, Timbers’ Darlington Nagbe heads the ball forward towards his two advancing team-mates – Fanendo Adi who is in an offside position, and Diego Chara who is in an onside position.

Assistant referee Nick Uranga correctly does not raise his flag. He utilizes the wait and see technique, keeping his flag down and analyzing the movements of the two players. If the ball is played by Chara, no offense would be committed as he would be onside, but if it is played by Adi, Uranga would penalise him for “interfering with play”.

Here is a reminder of that aspect of law:

“A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by:

– Interfering with play by playing or touching the ball passed or touched by a team-mate”

Uranga can see that it is Chara who pursues the ball so he keeps his flag down and continues to focus on the play. When Chara wins the ball, he passes to Adi who is in an onside position, slightly behind the ball. Adi then puts the ball in the net.

The AR is perfectly in line and does not initially signal Adi offside, but it is at this point that Uranga feels uneasy about Adi’s involvement in the play, and from his peripheral vision feels as though he interfered with Dynamo defender, Leonardo.

He therefore stands still and asks referee Jose Carlos Rivero to come to him to discuss. As players naturally come over to try and influence the officials, Rivero uses his spray, an effective player management tool which he is known for and something first seen in a previous POTW to prevent players getting too close.

Uranga explains that Adi was in an offside position and asks Rivero if, in his opinion, he interfered with the defender. Rivero confirms that Adi impeded the progress of Leonardo and prevented any opportunity he may have had in catching up and defending this play.

The aspect of law that covers this is “making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball”.

If you look at the replay, Rivero has a great view of this action by Adi but would be unaware of him being in an offside position. This has been discussed in many previous Play of the Weeks and is called the “Jigsaw Effect” where the AR has one part of the puzzle (offside position) and the referee has the other part (interfering with an opponent). By putting the two pieces together, the officials have all the information they need to make the correct call.

This is great teamwork and confirms that dialogue and working together is essential in the modern game, particularly when it comes to offside and interfering with an opponent.