PRO Insight: Stopping a Promising Attack (SPA)
Members of PRO’s technical instruction team have recently delivered educational sessions around defining what constitutes the tactical offense of Stopping a Promising Attack (SPA).
The laws of the game mandate a caution (yellow card) be issued for the following offenses, under Unsporting Behavior:
• handles the ball to interfere with, or stop, a promising attack
• commits any other offence which interferes with or stops a promising attack, except where the referee awards a penalty kick for an offence which was an attempt to play the ball
In order to help officials to consistently identify SPA offenses, the following considerations provide assistance in correctly categorizing the outcome of an incident:
1) Speed, space and options
Referees will evaluate the following when assessing whether an attack is to be considered ‘promising’:
Speed – The player(s) is (are) moving forward with pace in their attack.
Space – There should be green space in front of the player with the ball to dribble, pass or shoot and/or green space in front of other attackers would could receive the ball.
Options – Either the player with the ball has options to take on a defender or has other teammates to which he could pass the ball.
The key here is that these considerations relate to a promising attack which has a possibility of becoming a goal-scoring opportunity, and not simply every forward movement.
In the following video clips, PRO officials Karen Abt (NWSL – Houston Dash vs Kansas City), Jon Freemon (USL Championship – Orange County vs Sacramento Republic) and Victor Rivas (MLS – Orlando City vs Toronto) all recognize the above considerations and issue yellow cards correctly.
2) Blatant/Cynical Offenses
The defender blatantly or cynically holds/fouls the attacker as they are starting, or during, an attack. In this consideration, the nature of the holding offense is one that cannot be ignored, even if the promising attack is only just emerging or the offense occurs well into the defensive half. The hold occurs because the defender feels that without this blatant, deliberate offense, the opponents will have an attack for which they will not be able to defend. These offenses should be punished with the issuing of a caution (yellow card).
In both the Orlando Pride vs Portland Thorns (Laura Rodriguez) and Seattle Sounders vs Atlanta United (Kevin Stott) video clip incidents below, the clear holding is designed to stop quick and dangerous counter attacks, with yellow cards the appropriate outcomes in both.
3) Possible denial of obvious goalscoring opportunity (DOGSO) situation, but with considerations missing
The four considerations for DOGSO are:
• distance between the offence and the goal
• general direction of the play
• likelihood of keeping or gaining control of the ball
• location and number of defenders
The video clip below illustrates MLS referee Drew Fischer applying this process correctly in the New York City vs Columbus Crew game from Week 6, where there is at least one consideration for DOGSO missing.
In all of these situations, the consistent application of considerations by officials will help them to correctly recognize tactical fouling from teams or individual players. While every incident may have subtle differences, which can make a difference to the final outcome, using these factors provides solid reference points for every level of officiating.