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EducationThe Definitive Angle

The Definitive Angle: MLS Week 2

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

Week 2 overview

There were six reviews in Week 2 of MLS which is above the usual average. Video reviews run at an average of a little less than one every three matches in MLS, which closely matches the data we receive from the Bundesliga, Serie A and the Eredivisie.

Four reviews were examples of excellent usage of the system, two reviews PRO feels were unnecessary as the on-field decision was not clearly wrong and one other incident that should have been recommended but the VAR felt there was not enough evidence available due to lack of camera angles.

Three good reviews:

SJ vs MIN: VAR sees the arm extended away from the body and the arm moves towards the ball and correctly recommends a review. The on-field decision was to play on and, after review, the penalty kick was correctly awarded. This is a good use of Video Review.


SKC vs PHI: VAR sees the arm in a completely unnatural position above defender’s head and this arm makes the defender “bigger” by taking away space. Even though the defender’s back is turned and he cannot see the ball, in this case it is immaterial due to the position of the arm. The on-field decision was to play on and, after review, the penalty kick was correctly awarded. This is a good use of Video Review.


NE vs CLB: VAR sees that the arm and not the elbow makes contact with the opponent. The arm is not bent or thrown at the opponent and is inadvertent contact as part of normal, albeit late and somewhat forceful challenge for the ball. This is clearly not a red card and the VAR was correct to recommend a review. The referee rescinded the red card and changed it to a yellow card for a reckless challenge. This is a good use of Video Review.


Straight red at Sporting Kansas City


Starting Point – On Field Decision: Foul – no misconduct

What Happened: Marco Fabian (PHI) and Johnny Russell (SKC) challenged for the ball just outside the PHI penalty area. Russell went to ground in order to play the ball, causing Fabian to jump but as he landed Fabian brought his right foot down with force into the body of Russell beneath him.

The Video Review Process:

  • 15 seconds in to the check the VAR has seen the point of contact and picked Tight as the best angle to look at
  • 20 seconds: The referee says he has just a foul and not sure if Fabian really hits Russell
  • 30 seconds: The VAR has looked at the contact twice at 50 percent speed and once at 100 percent and is trying to contact referee and get his attention.
  • 40 seconds: Referee has asked the players to stop talking so that he can hear the VAR
  • 45 seconds: VAR asks referee if he has seen the step, he answers yes, but not sure if Fabian could have avoided the contact
  • 53 seconds: VAR recommends a review for violent conduct as he sees a clear bringing down of the foot into Russell with no attempt to reduce the force or avoid the contact
  • 1:05: VAR shows the referee two angles one from the front and one from the back. First at 50 percent and then at 100 percent speed
  • 1:25: Referee concurs with VAR that Fabian did bring his foot down into Russell with unnecessary force and had options. Says he will give red card and leaves the RRA (Referee Review Area).

PRO’s Decision: Fabian could have avoided the contact when jumping over Russell and placed his foot elsewhere, the footage shows an intention on his part to drive his leg down into Russell in a clear act of violent conduct. This was the correct outcome and an excellent use of the Video Review system.


Review for DOGSO in Chicago


Although it is tempting to think, “just send the referee to have a second look” that is not optimal usage of Video Review. If that were the case, every penalty, red card and goal, given or not given, would need the referee to go to the RRA to have a second look. This would surely interrupt matches too often and lead to displeasure amongst all stakeholders.

VARs, in some ways, act as filters, meant to sift out all the correct decisions or those which are subjective but not considered wrong, and only recommend reviews on the clear errors or serious incidents which are missed. In some cases, like this DOGSO incident in Chicago, they identify a subjective grey area and decide to send it to review contrary to best practices.

Starting Point – On Field Decision: Red card shown for Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity (DOGSO).

What Happened: A foul was committed by Jorge Corrales (CHI) on Ruan (ORL), who was in possession of the ball running towards the CHI penalty area. The foul occurred a few yards outside the CHI penalty area. Another CHI defender was to the left and slightly behind the situation, but in relatively close proximity. In the opinion of the referee the foul challenge denied ORL an obvious goal scoring opportunity and as such Corrales was shown a red card and sent from the field of play.

The Video Review Process:

  • VAR finds the point of contact (This allows the operator to create a loop of the incident)
  • Gets confirmation from the field that a red card was shown for DOGSO.
  • VAR quickly checks to make sure that ORL Ruan was not in offside position on the original pass.
  • Using High EZ and Left 18 angles the VAR determines:
    1. that he has direction towards goal
    2. distance to goal is good
    3. likelihood of keeping control is there.
    However, he is unsure whether
    4. the closest CHI defender will be able to stop the scoring opportunity. For DOGSO all four considerations must be met.
  • VAR makes a recommendation for review so the referee can have a “second look” at that defender
  • The referee looked at the footage in the RRA and decided to maintain his original red card decision for DOGSO.

PRO’s Decision: There is no doubt that this situation involves a subjective judgment as to whether the CHI defender’s position reduces the goal scoring opportunity from ‘obvious’ to ‘possible’. In PRO’s opinion, the red card decision was correct and there was certainly no clear and obvious error in the on-field decision. As such, the VAR should not have recommended a Video Review in this case.


Missed Review in Real Salt Lake vs Vancouver


Starting Point – On Field Decision: Penalty given

What Happened: A penalty kick was awarded to RSL for a foul challenge by VAN defender Jake Nerwinski on RSL attacker Corey Baird. The footage shows that Nerwinski does put his foot out towards Baird as he tries to make a challenge within the VAN penalty area, however, there is no contact between the two players at that point. As Baird continues to move forward he begins to go to ground and as he does so he moves his right leg out towards Nerwinski, and contact is made between the legs of the two players.

The Video Review Process: The VAR quickly checked to see if Baird was offside on the original pass and once seeing he was not, went on to check if there was an error with the penalty kick. The first difficulty in the checking process was the lack of angles available. There were only two perspectives – Tight and Endzone – with the Endzone camera being blocked by the goalkeeper’s body right at the moment of contact. Left18, Game, LowMid and Steadicam all show the same angle with very slight differences that were not helpful. Handheld was not facing the field. The VAR could see the contact at the end of the tackle, but did not recognize that this contact was created by Baird after he was already falling. Without any other angles available he decided to not recommend a review.

PRO’s Decision: Although lacking clear angles, the VAR had sufficient evidence to recommend a review as the contact was not due to a foul by Nerwinski and this is more a case of simulation by Baird (who should’ve been cautioned). The VAR should have recommended a review as the penalty award was clearly wrong.


Review for penalty in Atlanta


Starting Point – On Field Decision: Penalty not given

What Happened: In the first half, ATL were attacking in the CIN penalty area. Jozef Martinez (ATL) offloaded the ball to Julian Gressel, who shot wide. After the ball had been released, Mathieu Deplagne (CIN) made contact with the foot of Martinez.

VAR Process: In checking the play, the VAR could see that indeed there was contact on the foot of Martinez and he recommends a review on that basis. However, the VAR sits in the VOR (Video Operations Room) which is a sterile environment without the atmosphere of the match. The on-field officials have a much better feel for the game at that moment and the expectations of certain contact that naturally happens throughout a match. It is one of the main reasons why we do not want VARs re-refereeing a match. Thus, when the referee looked at the footage in the RRA he deemed the contact to be incidental and not worthy of a foul, and retained his original no-penalty decision.

PRO’s Decision: The situation did not involve a clear error in the non-awarding of a penalty. As such it should not have been recommended for review.



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