The Definitive Angle: MLS Week 1

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

Week 1 overview

There were two Video Reviews during Week 1, both for offside.


MTL vs NE: Review for no goal (offside) – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Goal.

What Happened: A goal was scored by Wilfried Zahibo (NE) and awarded by the on-field match officials.

However, on checking the footage, the VAR saw that Zahibo was in an offside position at the moment the ball was touched to him by his teammate, just prior to the goal, and as such, a Video Review was recommended.

The Video Review Process:

0:00-0:15 – The VAR first looked to see if anyone was in an offside position on the original free kick, he noted that Teal Bunbury (NE #10) was standing in an offside position, but did not interfere with play.

0:15-0:25 – The second potential offside was checked when the ball was played by the head of a New England Revolution attacker, and that check highlighted that the goal scorer was in an offside position on that touch.

0:25-1:00 – Several angles were looked at to confirm that it was touched by the attacker’s head or body.

1:20 – A Video Review was recommended.

1:30 – The referee agreed with the offside position but wanted to see an angle to confirm that it is touched by the attacker.

PRO’s Decision: The goal was correctly disallowed because Zahibo was in an offside position.


SEA vs CHI: Review for no goal (offside) – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Goal.

What Happened: A goal was scored by Cristian Roldan (SEA) and awarded by the on-field match officials. However, on checking the footage, the VAR saw that in the attacking phase of play, Jordan Morris (SEA) had been in an offside position when he received the ball from a teammate, before crossing the ball for Roldan to score.

A Video Review was recommended.

The Video Review Process:

0:00-0:10 – The possibility of offside was checked on the first pass towards Morris that was intercepted.

0:22 – Kick point was set on Roldan’s pass to Morris.

0:30 – VAR and AVAR both agreed that Morris was in an offside position.

0:50 – A Video Review was recommended.

PRO’s Decision: The goal was correctly disallowed because Morris was offside in the APP.


NSH vs ATL: Non-review for red card (denial of a goal) – not given


Starting Point – On-field Decision: Yellow card.

What Happened: A yellow card was issued to goalkeeper Joe Willis (NSH) for Stopping a Promising Attack (SPA) when he used his arms to block a shot from Ezequiel Barco (ATL) while he was near to the center of the field of play, having moved forward late in the game.

The Video Review Process:

The VAR checked the incident by looking at the position of defenders as well as the distance away from the goal.

Because of the uncertainty of whether the ball would travel into the goal and whether the defender would be able to clear the ball, the VAR correctly did not intervene.

PRO’s Decision: The non-red card for Willis was the correct decision for the following reasons:

  • The Laws of the Game state a player should be sent off if he/she deliberately handles the ball (including the goalkeeper outside the penalty area), which either denies a goal or denies an obvious goalscoring opportunity.
  • In this situation, Barco had a shot towards goal from near to the halfway line, approximately 55 yards from the goal. The ‘opportunity’ was taken at the moment the shot was hit (there was no further ‘opportunity’ as there were no other Atlanta United players ahead of the shot who could have run onto the ball after it was struck towards goal). Within the commonly-accepted practical application of the Laws of the Game, after a shot has been made towards goal, any subsequent offense is not considered DOGSO (Denial of an Obvious Goalscoring Opportunity) but is considered under the other part of the law, namely was a goal denied. As such, in this case, there was no DOGSO, but consideration had to be given as to whether a goal was denied.
  • The key question is whether the goalkeeper denied a goal by handling the ball outside the penalty area? For this offense to be penalized, the referee would need to have a level of certainty that the ball was entering the goal. This is much easier to conclude when the offense takes place nearer to goal, but at 55 yards out, it’s very difficult to know.
  • In this case, there was a defender chasing back who, in the opinion of the referee, was likely to have been able to intercept the ball prior to it reaching the goal, if the shot was on-frame.
  • The handball offense ‘may’ have stopped the ball going into the goal, but equally, it may not have. The ball may have fallen short of the goal, or have gone wide, or the defender who was chasing back may have intercepted it. The Laws of the Game don’t state that a player can be sent off who ‘may’ have stopped a goal; they state that a player will be sent off who denies a goal. The uncertainty in this case caused by the distance from goal and the deep position of the defender who was chasing back resulted in the referee correctly concluding that he could not penalize the goalkeeper for an offense of denying a goal.

Even though there is an expectation that this type of action deserves a red card, we have to work within the Laws of the Game, which would not support a red card in this case.