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EducationPlay of the Week

Play of the Week 22: Violent conduct

By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer

In Play of the Week 22 we are discussing violent conduct and how to detect it.

We will be looking at two plays – one at a set piece and one during fluid play – and comparing the outcome in both. The first one is from the game between Montreal Impact and Houston Dynamo, and the second involves Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City.

First, in the game at the Stade Saputo, home of Montreal Impact, we see referee Marcos DeOliveira making his presence known to the players inside the penalty area prior to a corner kick. This is good pro-active refereeing. It makes the players aware of the referee’s close proximity and should deter them from any acts of misconduct.


He then backs away and, when the cross comes over, there is an elbow in the face of Impact’s Patrice Bernier by Dynamo’s David Horst, which is missed by DeOliveira. I have mentioned many times in previous Plays of the Week that positioning is, by far, the biggest reason that referees miss acts of violent conduct or serious foul play.

If we examine this play we see that the referee remains too close to the players. His line of vision is partially blocked by Houston’s Andrew Wenger, so he doesn’t clearly see the contact.

Prior to set pieces, referees must scan the area, anticipate the players’ movements and characters, and consider where the best starting position is. Once the kick has been taken the referee must then adjust his position to best view the drop zone so he has the optimum view of any potential misconduct.

From a starting position that is too close, DeOliveira does not adjust his position after the ball is played. His starting position should be on the nearside (to the camera) junction of the penalty arc and the penalty area, and then adjusted slightly to his right into a more central position. By doing this he would have given himself a better chance of seeing the contact between Horst and Bernier.

The second play at Providence Park, home of the Portland Timbers, is an example of violent conduct off the ball. In this play we see Timbers’ Diego Chara strike Sporting KC’s Benny Feilhaber in the face. Referee Baldomero Toledo has a close, unobstructed clear view and has no hesitation in sending off Chara.


So how does Toledo get this right?

There is no substitute for experience, and Toledo’s ‘smelling’ and anticipation of the potential of misconduct keeps him close to the play and his eyes on the characters he knows so well, instead of following the play. As previously mentioned, optimum positioning provides a referee with a better opportunity to see the situation; the other ingredients then take over.

1. See
2. Think
3. Recognize
4. Act

Of course, those are the natural processes, however the other considerations are:

Courage and conviction: This is only the 12th minute of the game, but a top class referee like Toledo doesn’t allow that to interfere with his thought process and judgment. He knows what he has to do and single-mindedly carries out the process.

Calmness personified: He will be aware that there will be a reaction but he knows the only way to deal with the aftermath is to remain calm and collected. You can see that his demeanor has a calming influence on the protesting Sporting players.

Having compared an act of violent conduct from set pieces and from fluid play, to ensure a referee has any chance of making the correct call he has to be in the optimum position.

At and on set pieces he has to consider his starting position and then re-adjust according to the dropping zone. The one aspect that links both set piece positioning and fluid play positioning is anticipation, which will always take you to the optimum position.

Read more: Click here to see other Play of the Week’s from PRO’s Paul Rejer

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