The Definitive Angle: MLS Week 22

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

Week 22 overview

There were six Video Reviews during Week 22 – all of them involved penalty kick incidents. Five were for penalty kicks not given and one was for a penalty given with a review for denial of a goalscoring opportunity.


ATL vs LA: Review for penalty kick – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Play on.

What Happened: A shot was blocked by goalkeeper David Bingham (LA) from whom the ball rebounded. As Emerson Hyndman (ATL) closed in to convert the loose ball, he was challenged on the goal area line by Giancarlo González (LA). Hyndman was favorite to reach the ball first and would have been expected to have got a shot away from the rebound. However, the left leg of Gonzalez made contact on the right leg of Hyndman before either player made contact with the ball.

The referee initially allowed play to continue; however, the VAR recommended a Video Review after he saw the foul contact by González was before the ball was played.

The Video Review Process:

  • 15 seconds after the contact, the VAR found the best angle in the HighEZ camera.
  • 40 seconds after he viewed the Tight and Game angles he recommended a review to the referee.
  • On seeing that contact, the referee decided that he would award a penalty, but asked for a wide-angle to determine if it was necessary to give a caution for denial of a goalscoring opportunity.

PRO’s Decision: The foul impeded Hyndman, who, as a consequence, was not able to make clean contact on the ball and the chance to score was lost. The penalty was the correct outcome.

The contact from González, although not particularly apparent in full speed, was significant because it was enough to deny Hyndman an obvious goalscoring opportunity which meant that the caution to González for a DOGSO offense in the penalty area, but with a genuine attempt to play the ball, was also correct.

This was a good use of the Video Review system.


COL vs MTL: Review for penalty kick – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Play on.

What Happened: The ball was headed across the Montreal Impact penalty area towards Tommy Smith (COL), who made contact on the ball while under pressure from Zakaria Diallo (MTL). Diallo made contact from behind on Smith and both went to ground. The referee allowed play to continue and the ball ran loose towards Diego Rubio (COL), who touched the ball and then went down under contact from Shamit Shome (MTL), who made no contact on the ball.

The referee waved play on while the VAR checked the full sequence.

The Video Review Process:

  • 20 seconds – The VAR began to check the possible holding foul and identified it as a possible penalty kick, but did not determine if it rose to the clear and obvious level.
  • 30 seconds – The referee contacted the VAR to relay that he did not clearly see the contact between Rubio and Shome.
  • 40 seconds – The VAR recommended a review for the second contact but informed the referee that there could be a case for the first incident, too.
  • 1:30 – The referee arrived at the RRA and the VAR showed him the second incident.
  • 2:20 – The referee agreed with the VAR after seeing the LeftEZ angle.

PRO’s Decision: The footage showed that the right foot of Shome made contact with the right foot of Rubio without making any contact on the ball. There appeared to be less of a case for a clear and obvious error in the first situation, even though a penalty award would have had some merit. As such, the awarding of the penalty for the second part of the sequence is a more credible use of the Video Review system.


ORL vs DAL: Review for penalty kick – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Play on.

What Happened: FC Dallas were attacking the Orlando City goal and a cross from the right side was delivered into the Orlando City penalty area. Defender Lamine Sané (ORL) attempted to jump to meet the ball, but as he did so, Dominique Badji (DAL) held his shirt. Sané failed to reach the ball with his head, but it did make glancing contact with his right hand, which was outstretched away from his body.

The Video Review Process:

  • The VAR was able to confirm that the ball made contact with the outstretched hand of Sané and deemed this to be in an unnatural position worthy of the award of a penalty kick.
  • However, he also recognized the holding by Badji and therefore recommended a Video Review so the referee could see the whole sequence.
  • The referee agreed that the ball had struck the hand of Sané, but felt that at the same time the arm was in an unnatural position due to his shirt having been held.

PRO’s Decision: It is appropriate for the VAR to recommend a review in order to add credibility to the final outcome, especially if the participants and viewing public are aware of the penalty appeal and would otherwise not understand why a Video Review was not recommended.

This is a process recommended by The IFAB for such situations. The referee, therefore, looked at the footage in the RRA and having done so awarded a direct free-kick to the Orlando City for the holding offense by Badji. He clearly felt the holding by Badji was impactful on Sané and significant enough to be penalized, and correctly did not award a penalty.


MIN vs POR: Review for penalty kick (handling) – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Play on.

What Happened: A Minnesota United corner was played into the Portland Timbers penalty area. The ball was met by the head of Ike Opara (MIN), who at the time was being closely marked by Larrys Mabiala (POR). As Opara headed the ball goalwards, Mabiala extended both arms out ahead of him in an unorthodox move which left him extremely vulnerable to being penalized if the ball struck either arm.

The ball traveled a very short distance before being blocked by Mabiala, but the short distance was irrelevant because the header by Opara was not an unexpected action and Mabiala had already taken a decision to place his arms in an unnatural position and to make himself bigger by doing so.

After the ball had been blocked by Mabiala the referee allowed play to continue and waved away the penalty appeals by the Minnesota United players.

The Video Review Process:

  • After he saw the arms in such an unnatural position, the VAR initially struggled to find an angle that showed whether the ball struck the arm or the torso of Mabiala.
  • Using the Jib camera in combination with Right 18 the VAR was able to determine that the ball struck the upper arm and recommended a review.
  • The referee used both angles with zoom to determine that it was a handling offense.

PRO’s Decision: In live play, it is understandable why the penalty was not given. However, Mabiala placed himself in a very vulnerable position to be penalized in this case with the unnatural position of his arms.

The Video Review process took slightly longer than usual due to the need to find the right angle to determine where the ball struck; however, the penalty kick outcome was correct.


DC vs PHI: Review for DOGSO – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Penalty kick and caution for Stopping a Promising Attack.

What Happened: A penalty kick was awarded to Philadelphia Union for a holding offense by Júnior Moreno (DC) on Kacper Przybylko (PHI) in the DC United penalty area. Przybylko had controlled a dropping ball on his chest, and was shaping to shoot a few yards from goal with only the goalkeeper to beat when he was held by Moreno. The referee initially awarded the penalty kick, which was readily accepted on the field, and issued a yellow card to Moreno for stopping a promising attack.

The Video Review Process:

  • The VAR could see the penalty offense was clear, but he also saw that Moreno’s actions had denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
  • The VAR recommended a review for DOGSO with a red card because he saw a holding offense that was not a clear challenge for the ball, and the likelihood of gaining control was clear.

PRO’s Decision: The referee had reached his yellow card decision because of doubt as to whether Przybylko would gain full control of the ball, however, the footage showed the ball was dropping onto his foot in a good shooting position.

This was a good use of Video Review.


SEA vs SKC: Review for penalty kick – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Corner kick.

What Happened: A challenge by Nouhou Tolo (SEA) on Gerso Fernandes (SKC) in the Seattle Sounders penalty area resulted in the award of a corner kick to Sporting Kansas City.

The Video Review Process:

  • Using the Jib EZ camera with the Tight angle, the VAR could see that Nouhou had made foul contact on Gerso from behind and made little, if any, contact on the ball after making contact on Gerso.
  • Once he has confirmed that Nouhou had not played the ball, the VAR recommended a review after 40 seconds.

PRO’s Decision: The foul contact is clear and obvious, making this a good use of Video Review.