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Talking Points: Avoidable contact with goalkeepers

In Week 17, LA Galaxy’s Kévin Cabral was sent off for violent conduct after making late contact with the head of Minnesota United goalkeeper Dayne St Clair.

The incident created much discussion. PRO wishes to clarify that in issuing the red card, referee Ted Unkel followed well-established guidelines in MLS designed to preserve player safety by reducing contacts to the head which are deemed avoidable.

Each year, MLS competition department includes a section in the team preseason meeting dedicated to this topic, alongside a range of other topics, such as any updates to the Laws of the Game, changes to MLS competition rules, and reminders regarding player discipline. Clubs are reminded that the responsibility rests with attacking players to make every effort to avoid contact with a goalkeeper’s head. Goalkeepers find themselves in a vulnerable position when they go to ground to gather the ball. When such efforts to avoid contact by attacking players are not taken, they run a high risk of being issued a red card and/or face supplementary disciplinary action from the MLS Disciplinary Committee.

Referees are consistently instructed to consider unnecessary/avoidable foot-to-head contact on a goalkeeper as “endangering the safety of an opponent” within their interpretation of the Laws of the Game.

In these incidents, if the referee does not issue a direct red card, the VAR should recommend an on-field review.

The MLS Disciplinary Committee will utilize, but will not be limited to, the following criteria when determining whether the incident meets the standard for disciplinary action:

• The attacker’s ability to play the ball / mistimed challenge; and/or
• Whether there is contact by the defender(s) that impacts the attacker’s ability to avoid the goalkeeper; and/or
• Demonstration by the attacker to show every effort was made to avoid contact with the goalkeeper; and/or
• The potential to cause injury


Examples


In this situation, the ball is there to be played by the attacker, but he is too far away and misses the ball. The ball is then controlled by the goalkeeper. However, the attacker does not retract his foot, but rather keeps his foot extended to make contact with the head of the goalkeeper with his studs. The attacker should be sent off for Violent Conduct.


In this situation, the attacker is second to the ball. He does not try to avoid making contact, but rather keeps his foot low and makes contact with the head of the goalkeeper. The attacker should be sent off for Violent Conduct.


In this situation, the attacker is second to the ball. He does not try to avoid making contact, but rather keeps his foot low and makes contact with the head of the goalkeeper. The attacker should be sent off for Violent Conduct.


This situation is the worst of the four in this section. Here, the attacker is second to the ball. However, not only does he leave his foot in, but he also deliberately opens his leg to ensure that he makes contact with goalkeeper’s head. The attacker should be sent off for Violent Conduct.




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