The Definitive Angle: MLS Week 8

The Definitive Angle is PRO’s analysis of the week’s Video Review use in MLS.

Week 8 overview

There were six Video Reviews, including a review for mistaken identity that went mostly unnoticed. In San Jose, there was a good example of why PRO Assistant Referees delay the showing of the flag for offside to allow for Video Review to come into play the check a disallowed goal.


CHI vs COL: A review for serious foul play



Starting Point – On-field Decision: Yellow card for a reckless tackle

What Happened: Jack Price (COL) committed a foul challenge on Brandt Bronico (CHI) near to the touchline. The referee deemed the challenge to be reckless and initially showed Price a yellow card.
The VAR checked the footage and on doing so could see that Price had lunged into the tackle from behind, his legs going either side of the legs of Bronico before being closed in a scissor action.

The VAR recommended a Video Review for a possible serious foul play red card and the referee concurred with the VAR that the challenge had excessive force and endangered the safety of Bronico, and therefore reversed his original yellow card decision, replacing it with a red card.

The Video Review Process:

The VAR quickly came to his conclusion that this was a missed red card using Tight and High EZ angles and recommended a review.

Once at the monitor the referee was not convinced at first and believed that Price may have played the ball.
The VAR showed him the High EZ angle and told him that there was no contact on the ball.

The referee decided it was serious foul play.

PRO’s Decision: This was a credible outcome for a poor challenge. Although there was not a high level of speed or intensity in the challenge, it is the sort of tackle which presented an obvious danger to the opponent and is not the type we wish to see.


PHI vs MTL: A review for serious foul play



Starting Point – On-field Decision: Yellow card for a reckless tackle

What Happened: Kai Wagner (PHI) committed a foul challenge upon Mathieu Choiniere (MTL). Wagner entered the challenge with high speed and a straight left leg. The studs of Wagner’s left boot made contact with the right leg of Choiniere well above the ankle. The challenge had excessive force and endangered the safety of Choiniere. The referee, who was looking at the challenge from behind and therefore didn’t have the optimal viewing angle, awarded a direct free kick to Montreal Impact and cautioned Wagner for what he perceived to be a reckless foul challenge without excessive force. However, the VAR checked the footage to establish if the non-showing of a red card was a clear and obvious error. On doing so, he recommended a Video Review for a possible red card for serious foul play. The referee looked at the footage in the RRA before changing his yellow card punishment for Wagner to red.

The Video Review Process:

The VAR took less than 20 seconds to recommend a review using the images seen on Left HH camera.
At the monitor, the referee asked if Wagner has played the ball first, but on seeing the footage in both full speed and 100 percent speed, he realized he hadn’t and decided to show the red card.

PRO’s Decision: There is little doubt that this was a serious foul play challenge. This was an excellent use of Video Review to rectify a clear and obvious error in a very efficient manner.


ORL vs VAN: A review for serious foul play – not given



Starting Point – On-field Decision: Yellow Card for a reckless tackle

What Happened: In the time allowed for stoppages at the end of the game, Lass Bangoura (VAN) challenged for a dropping ball by raising his foot. His eyes were firmly focussed on the ball throughout as he moved into the challenge. As Bangoura moved his foot up towards the ball in an action which suggests he was trying to bring it down rather than kicking through it, Joao Moutinho (ORL) moved into the challenge from the right side of Bangoura and from slightly behind him. Moutinho lowered his head a little and reached the ball with his head just prior to Bangoura, whose foot (which was above waist height), connected with Moutinho’s head. Despite the studs making contact with the head, the force was reduced somewhat due to Bangoura’s leg being bent. The contact was somewhat glancing as the foot was not thrust into the head or face.

The Video Review Process: The VAR checked the footage and was presented with something of a dilemma on seeing the studs of a high boot make contact with the face of an opponent. The common default position in such circumstances is the issuing of a red card and therefore it is understandable why the VAR recommended a Video Review.

PRO’s Decision: Although we don’t advocate the recommending of reviews just to give the referee ‘another look’, this is such a borderline case that we can accept the VAR’s actions in this case. The referee was well-placed to use his ‘feel’ of the incident and the intensity which he witnessed in real time, in combination with the video images, to reach the most appropriate outcome. The referee decided to retain his original yellow card decision which on balance and having taken into consideration all the factors outlined above, was the correct outcome.


ORL vs VAN: Mistaken identity


What Happened: A reckless foul was committed by Nani (ORL) when challenging for an aerial ball. However, in a case of mistaken identity, the referee incorrectly cautioned Lamine Sane (ORL), believing he had committed the offense. The VAR checked the footage and on doing so could see that it was Nani who should have received the caution. As such, the VAR intervened and advised the referee that the yellow card should be transferred to Nani. The referee accepted the information and correctly transferred the yellow card from Sane to Nani, however, he omitted to show the Video Review signal. This outcome was reached through the intervention of the VAR, and as such, this is recorded as a correct Video Review.

PRO’s Decision: Every misconduct given must be checked by the VAR to ascertain that the correct player has been cautioned or red carded. As a result of this best practice, the VAR was able to correct the mistaken identity before play had restarted or it was even noticed off the field.


SJ vs SKC: Offside in attacking possession phase leading to a goal



Starting Point – On-field Decision: Offside – No goal

What Happened: A goal scored by Danny Hoesen (SJ) was ruled out by the on-field officials for offside. However, knowing that it was a close call, the assistant referee had correctly delayed the raising of the flag until the end of the play, which in this case was with the scoring of a goal. This opened up a window for the VAR to check the footage to establish if the canceling of the goal for offside was a clear and obvious error.

The Video Review Process: The VAR could see on the Game Camera that Hoesen was clearly onside when the ball was played to him – not necessarily determined by the defender closest to him (although possibly) but certainly by the defender in the center of the field.

PRO’s Decision: This was a good use of the delayed flag procedure that was implemented specifically for this reason, and of Video Review to correctly award the goal to San Jose Earthquakes.


ATL vs DAL: Penalty kick



What Happened: In the time allowed for stoppages at the end of the game, Carlos Gruezo (DAL) challenged Brek Shea (ATL) for the ball in the FC Dallas penalty area. Shea made contact with the ball after which contact was made on Shea by Gruezo; however, the referee did not identify this as foul contact and play was allowed to continue.

The Video Review Process: The VAR checked the footage and could see that the contact on Shea was late and forceful, with no contact being made on the ball by Gruezo and then recommended a review.
PRO’s Decision: The referee correctly awarded a penalty kick to Atlanta United and cautioned Gruezo for his reckless foul challenge. The penalty kick outcome, in this case, was certainly correct. The challenge itself was close to being worthy of a red card. The initial contact was above the boot, however, it then quickly moved down onto the foot. As such, this is a subjective decision between merely reckless and reckless with excessive force.


LA vs HOU: Non review of penalty kick



What Happened: A penalty kick was awarded to Houston Dynamo when Jorgen Skjelvik (LA) brought down Alberth Elis (HOU). The foul occurred very close to the sideline of the penalty area. The referee made a judgment that the foul happened when Elis’ upper body was contacted from behind by Skjelvik, and at that time the point of contact was over the penalty area line. In such cases, the foul should result in the award of a penalty kick because the line is considered to be part of the area which it defines. As such, the referee awarded a penalty kick to Houston Dynamo.

The Video Review Process: From the VAR’s point of view, he felt the footage did not provide conclusive evidence that the on-field decision of penalty kick was wrong.

The VAR was working with limited tools on this occasion. It was unfortunate in this case that the best camera angle (High R EZ), which should have been looking at the situation down the full length of the field of play from behind the far goal line, was zoomed-in on the referee’s back. This camera proved to be a useless part of the check, it most certainly would have had a definitive angle to view the location of the tackle had it not been zoomed.

The VAR came to the conclusion that he did not have an angle that was better than the referee’s view and decided he could not intervene.

PRO’s Decision: On balance, it appears much more likely that a direct free-kick rather than a penalty would be the correct call, however, it is understandable why the VAR did not intervene, correctly working to a high threshold of clear and obvious error and considering the on-field decision to be correct in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary. Without any conclusive angle, the on-field decision was deemed correct.