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EducationPlay of the Week

Play of the Week 24: DOGSO

In the latest Play of the Week of the 2017 series, we are again discussing DOGSO and reinforcing the implications of the Law changes that took place for this season in the MLS. We will be reviewing a play from the weekend and clarifying an incident from last weekend.

This week’s play is from the game between Portland Timbers and New York Red Bulls. As Red Bulls’ Gonzalo Veron is moving towards the ball, he is brought down by Timbers’ Larrys Mabiala.

At this point, referee Allen Chapman has five decisions to make:

– Has Mabiala committed a foul?
– If so, did it take place inside or outside of the penalty area?
– Is this DOGSO?
– Has Mabiala made an attempt for the ball, or is there no opportunity for him to play the ball?
– Therefore, under the new Law change, is this a red card?

On these first two decisions, Chapman immediately blows his whistle and awards a free-kick from just outside the penalty area. When you look at the play, Mabiala definitely makes contact with Veron, who goes down, and the contact is outside the penalty area. This is confirmed by assistant referee Apolinar Mariscal who moves towards the front edge of the penalty area.

The following Law considerations must be examined:

– Distance between the offense and goal
– General direction of the play
– Likelihood of Veron keeping or gaining control of the ball
– Location and number of defenders

It is clear that the first three criteria occur here. Veron is outside the penalty area, moving towards goal, and he would have kept possession of the ball had the foul not occurred.

The only question is whether any defender could have intercepted the ball. If you look at the exact moment when the foul occurs, all other defenders are behind Veron and he would have had an empty goal in which to take a clear and uninterrupted shot.

We have established that all the considerations in Law are covered and, under the old Law, this would absolutely be a red card. However, under the new Law criteria, it is not necessarily a red card had the offense occurred inside of the penalty area.

As a reminder, the Law states:

Where a player commits an offense against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offending player is cautioned unless:
– The offense is holding, pulling or pushing
– The offending player does not attempt to play the ball, or there is no possibility for the player making the challenge to play the ball
– The offense is one which is punishable by a red card wherever it occurs on the field of play (e.g. serious foul play, violent conduct etc.)

However, once Chapman decides that the offense occurs outside of the penalty area none of the above criteria apply and therefore the Law is applied exactly the same as before the new Law changes, and he has no hesitation in sending off Mabiala, who accepts his fate without any protest.

We have discussed on numerous occasions about the role of the AR in incidents on the front edge of the penalty area. This is where ARs are always in a superior position to the referee and must assist the referee effectively. AR Mariscal confirms that the foul took place outside the penalty both verbally and visually.

The other interesting observation is despite the contact being clearly outside the penalty area when analysed, by the time Veron falls he is on the penalty spot. We have reiterated on numerous occasions that when deciding whether the offence takes place inside or outside the penalty area, referees have to take into account the distance of the fall as it can appear in real time to have occurred inside, when in fact it was outside.

In this play, if you look at Red Bulls’ Head Coach, Jesse Marsch, he is seeking guidance about whether the offense was in fact outside the penalty area or not.

Chapman and Mariscal between them made the correct call first time without the requirement, on this occasion, of the VAR.


At this point I would like to clarify a decision from the game between San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo in Week 23, when Earthquakes’ Andres Imperiale brings down Dynamo’s Erick Torres as he is moving towards goal.

Initially referee Ricardo Salazar brandishes the red card to Imperiale as he believes there was not an attempt to play the ball but, after consultation with AR Jeffrey Greeson, decides to overturn the decision and issue a yellow card.

David Elleray, Technical Director of The IFAB says: “It could be either way but within the spirit of the change to the DOGSO Law it is a yellow card as there was a general attempt to play the ball/challenge for the ball – albeit a not very good one!”

The Law does not require a judgement as to how good of an attempt it was to play the ball. The general philosophy on this Law, is that if the referee is unsure whether the player has made an attempt, or if there is a possibility of the defender playing the ball, the referee should err on the side of a yellow card rather than red card. So, any movement in the general direction of the ball can be interpreted as an attempt.

According to Law, the default setting of the referee in such a scenario is to issue a yellow card.

Referees should apply the philosophy of the Law change – if the player unsuccessfully attempts to play the ball or challenge the opponent for the ball and a penalty kick is awarded, the correct sanction is a caution (yellow card). The player’s movement towards the ball/opponent is a good indication of whether or not the player was attempting to play the ball or challenge the opponent for the ball.

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