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EducationThe Definitive Angle

The Definitive Angle: MLS Week 7

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

Week 7 overview

There were five Video Reviews this week, with one of them initiated by the referee to check a mass confrontation at the end of the New York Red Bull vs Sporting Kansas City match. Three were for incidents in the penalty area and the final one was for a handball in the attacking possession phase (APP) that lead to a goal.

MIN vs NYC: Handling in attacking possession phase

Starting Point – On-field Decision: Goal

What Happened: A goal was scored by Valentin Castellanos (NYC) and awarded by the on-field match officials to make the score 3-3.

As per every goal, the VAR checked the video footage and on doing so could see that Castellanos had used his left arm to knock the ball past goalkeeper Vito Mannone (MIN), which then enabled him to play it into the empty goal. This was a clear handball offense in the attacking possession phase and the referee canceled the goal and awarded a direct free-kick to Minnesota United. This was an excellent use of the Video Review system.

The Video Review Process: Even before the goal had been scored the referee suspected that there might have been a handball and asked the VAR to check.

The VAR first checked the possible offside on the original throughball, because had it been offside the whole sequence would be canceled by this factual event and this only takes a few seconds to check.
On finding the best angle (Tight) he can see that there is a slight movement off the ball when it grazes the arm. He also sees a movement in the arm to the ball.

The VAR recommended a review and shows the referee the Tight angle.

PRO’s Decision: There is a movement of the arm towards the ball and it made contact with the ball. This was nearly impossible to see in real time. This is the type of decision that video review was made for.

CHI vs VAN: Handling penalty – changed

Starting Point – On-field Decision: Play on – No penalty

What Happened:
An overhead kick by Aleksandar Katai (CHI) was blocked by defender Doneil Henry (VAN), resulting in an appeal for a handball penalty. The VAR could see that Henry had extended both arms out to the side, perpendicular to the ground, as he entered the challenge, thereby making himself a bigger obstacle for the ball to pass, and taking a really big risk. The referee looked at the footage in the RRA and, having done so, he awarded a penalty kick to Chicago Fire.

PRO’s Decision: Although the ball was hit from a short distance when Katai overhead-kicked it, Henry’s arms were still extended away from his body. The ball struck the right arm between the elbow and the shoulder, blocking its general direction towards goal. This was a credible use of the Video Review system.

DAL v POR: Handling penalty – retained

Starting Point – On-field Decision: Play on – No penalty

What Happened: From a corner cross, the ball was met by Larrys Mabiala (POR) and headed in the direction of the goal. The ball was blocked by the left hand of Ryan Hollingshead (DAL), which was raised near to head height. The referee did not recognize the handball offense in real time and wrongly allowed play to continue. 
On seeing the unnatural position of Hollingshead’s hand, the VAR recommended a Video Review for a possible penalty kick to Portland Timbers. The referee looked at the footage in the RRA but was not convinced from the footage he saw that the ball had hit the hand before any other part of Hollingshead’s body.

The Video Review Process: The VAR took longer than normal to make his recommendation because he was not sure at first if the ball had first come off Hollingshead’s chest before striking the arm. However, on seeing the image on the High Right EZ camera, he decided to recommend a review. The VAR showed that image to the referee in the RRA and the images from the Low Mid camera which is less conclusive. This second image may have led to the referee no changing his decision.

PRO’s Decision: The definitive angle clearly showed the ball directly struck the raised hand. Unfortunately, the Video Review process did not reach the correct outcome in this case, which should have been the award of a penalty kick to Portland Timbers for handball.

LA vs PHI: Penalty kick awarded

Starting Point – On-field Decision: Penalty kick given for a foul challenge

What Happened: As the ball was crossed into the Philadelphia Union penalty area, Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA) jumped for the ball in between two Union players – Auston Trusty, who was ahead of him, and Kai Wagner, who was behind. Just before Ibrahimovic was about to head the ball, Wagner made some contact from behind. The referee deemed this to be foul contact which had put Ibrahimovic off balance in the air and therefore unable to make a clean connection on the ball with his head, also causing him to land heavily. As such the referee awarded a penalty kick to LA Galaxy. 
The VAR checked the footage, and although he could see the contact described above, he felt it was a normal part of the challenge between the players and therefore recommended a Video Review. 
The referee looked at the footage in the RRA but having done so retained his original penalty decision.

The Video Review Process: This was a long review (over three minutes) due mostly to the time the referee spent at the RRA looking at the images and asking for additional different angles. Especially to see if there was an angle from behind the goal – which there wasn’t. There was disagreement on whether the contact made was enough for a penalty kick, and the referee finally decided to stay with his original decision as the images did not convince him that he was clearly wrong.

PRO’s Decision: There could be a case made here that the penalty decision was not a clear and obvious error and was subjective due to the contact made between Ibrahimovic and Wagner. However, when the on-field decision is a penalty kick for just a careless foul the VAR and referee may disagree whether there is enough contact to merit a penalty, which is what happened in this case. 
Penalty kicks are the most difficult decisions for VARs because it only takes a careless foul, while red cards take contact that is more than reckless, which is much more easily identifiable. On this incident, the original decision on the field was a penalty kick which can be supported as not a clear and obvious error.

SKC vs RBNY: Mass confrontation

• The Replay Operator’s Monitor showing all available angles

What Happened: The referee initiated this review in order to efficiently check the actions of multiple players during the mass confrontation. It was not a review of the actions of Alejandro Romero Gamarra (RBNY) as he had already been correctly red-carded for violent conduct. Having looked at the footage, the referee issued yellow cards to Krisztian Nemeth (SKC) and Luis Robles (NYRB) for their parts in the mass confrontation.

PRO’s Decision: This was a correct usage of the Video Review technology to efficiently check a mass confrontation. Usually, the VAR would first check the footage and then recommend a review if they saw any instance of violent conduct, but since the referee was already next to the RRA, he simply asked the VAR to rewind the footage so he could conduct the check himself. Having seen no acts that rose to the level of violent conduct he correctly decided that the actions of Robles and Nemeth were worthy of a yellow card.

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