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TOR vs NE: Deliberate play on the ball

In the 45th minute of the MLS Week 3 encounter between Toronto FC and New England Revolution, Toronto’s Ayo Akinola passed to Jay Chapman, who subsequently crossed the ball into the penalty area leading to Toronto’s second goal.

This has been the subject of much discussion, due to the fact Chapman was clearly in an offside position when the ball was passed to him.

However, as many will have realized, the attempt by New England Revolution’s Antonio Mlinar Delamea to intercept the forward pass is, according to guidelines issued by The IFAB and FIFA,  an example of a deliberate play on the ball by the defender.

Alan Black (PRO’s Head of Coaching, Education and Evaluation) explains:

In the Laws of the Game, Law 11 (offside) states:

“A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalised on becoming involved in active play by… gaining an advantage by playing the ball.”

However, the IFAB Laws of the Game also point out:

“A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage.”

To clarify the position, FIFA have also provided the following considerations for what constitutes a ‘deliberate’ play on the ball:

  1. A defender goes to play the ball – conscious action
  2. The defender has time and options
  3. The defender has control of his actions – not the outcome of the action
  4. There is distance and space between the pass and the defender playing the ball

Therefore, using the Laws of the Game and these considerations, in the situation from Sunday’s game the New England defender was correctly deemed by the officials to have deliberately played the ball.

As this was the last touch before Chapman received the ball, Chapman was correctly no longer judged to be either in an offside position nor gaining an advantage from being in an offside position.

The outcome would have been different had the ball hit Delamea and bounced or rebounded off him, in which case Chapman’s offside position at the moment the ball was played to him by his teammate would have been penalized. However, Delamea’s deliberate action negated Chapman’s offside position.

Ultimately the goal by Jordan Hamilton was legitimately allowed to stand to give Toronto a 2-1 lead at this point in the game.

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