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The Definitive Angle: MLS Week 23

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

Week 23 overview
There were nine Video Reviews during Week 23.


LAFC vs SEA: Review for goal (handball in APP) – not given


What Happened: A goal was scored by Carlos Vela (LAFC) and awarded by the on-field match officials.

Seattle Sounders players appealed that Vela had used his arm to control the ball before scoring. As always, the VAR checked footage of the goal to ensure there were no clear and obvious reasons why the goal should not be allowed to stand, and on doing so, could see that the ball had made contact with the bicep of Vela’s left arm before he immediately shot on goal to score.

The footage suggested that Vela had slightly moved his arm to the ball to control it, but even if there was no movement of the arm to the ball, or if the arm had been in a natural position not making Vela unnaturally bigger, this would still be an offense because contact between the ball and the arm occurred immediately prior to him scoring a goal.

Regardless of how such contact happens, a freekick should always be awarded to the defense in such circumstances.

As such, the VAR recommended a Video Review, and having looked at the footage for himself at the RRA, the referee disallowed the goal and awarded a direct freekick to Seattle Sounders.

On-field decision: Goal.
Type of review: No goal – handball.
Final decision after review: No goal.
Length of review: 2:31.

PRO’s Opinion: This was an excellent, efficient use of the Video Review system to rectify a clear and obvious error.


CHI vs ATL: Review for goal (offside in APP) – not given


What Happened: A goal was scored by Xherdan Shaqiri (CHI) and awarded by the on-field match officials.

The VAR saw that Shaqiri was in an offside position when the ball was crossed into the Atlanta United penalty area by teammate Miguel Navarro (CHI), after which the ball was not touched or played by another Chicago Fire player before reaching Shaqiri, who controlled it and scored.

The offside position and offense were clear, and as such, the VAR recommended a Video Review. Having looked at the footage for himself at the RRA, the referee disallowed the goal and restarted the game with an indirect freekick to Atlanta United for offside.
On-field decision: Goal.
Type of review: No goal – offside.
Final decision after review: No goal.
Length of review: 2:16.

PRO’s Opinion: This was a good, efficient use of the Video Review system to rectify a clear and obvious error.


PHI vs HOU: Review for penalty kick (handball) – given


What Happened: A penalty kick was awarded by the referee for what he perceived in real-time to be a handball offense by defender Daniel Steres (HOU) when he blocked a shot by Jack McGlynn (PHI) in the Houston Dynamo penalty area.

The VAR saw that it was Steres’ leg that had blocked the shot before the ball had then traveled onto Steres’ arm, which was naturally positioned and being used for support. The ball had not directly hit Steres’ arm, reducing the likelihood that this would be considered a handball offense.

Additionally, the Laws of the Game stipulate that it is not a handball offense if the ball makes contact with an arm which is bracing a falling body. Having seen these factors and formed the opinion that Steres’ actions did not justify the award of a penalty kick, the VAR recommended a Video Review.

After looking at the footage for himself at the RRA, the referee agreed with the VAR and overturned the penalty kick decision.

On-field decision: Penalty kick – handball.
Type of review: No penalty.
Final decision after review: No penalty – drop ball.
Length of review: 2:40.

PRO’s Opinion: Few in the game would expect a penalty kick to be given in these circumstances and as such, the use of the Video Review system to overturn the on-field call was appropriate in order to reach a very credible decision.


MIA vs CIN: Review for penalty kick (foul challenge) – not given


What Happened: A corner was taken by Inter Miami from the left wing, and the ball was crossed into the penalty area and met by the head of Jean Mota (MIA) in the goal area near the back post.

Mota was being challenged from behind by Tyler Blackett (CIN) as he headed the ball, and both players went to ground after the ball had been headed back across the penalty area by Mota rather than toward the goal. Inter Miami claimed Mota had been unfairly impeded with contact from behind, causing the mis-heading of the ball, but the referee saw no offense in real-time and allowed play to continue.

The VAR saw that Blackett’s right arm had made contact into the back of the neck/upper back of Mota just prior to Mota heading the ball. The contact impacted the manner in which Mota was able to head the ball. After the ball had been headed, Blackett’s body came through the back of Mota with reasonably heavy contact.

As such, the VAR formed the opinion that a foul had been committed by Blackett and that the non-award of a penalty kick was a clear and obvious error. He recommended a Video Review and after looking at the footage for herself at the RRA the referee agreed and awarded a penalty kick to Inter Miami.

On-field decision: Play on.
Type of review: Penalty kick.
Final decision after review: Penalty.
Length of review: 1:50.

PRO’s Opinion: This was a good use of the Video Review system to rectify a clear and obvious error.


MIA vs CIN: Review for goal (offside in APP) – not given


What Happened: A goal was scored by Alejandro Pozuelo (MIA) and awarded by the on-field match officials. The VAR formed the opinion that Robert Taylor (MIA) had been in an offside position when a long ball had been played up to him in the APP, prior to him running towards the FC Cincinnati goal in possession of the ball, which he then offloaded to Pozuelo to score.

The VAR recommended a Video Review for the goal to be disallowed for offside, and when the referee looked at the footage at the RRA she agreed with the VAR and disallowed the goal.

The offside judgment on Taylor was a close one. In real-time, the well-positioned assistant referee had judged that Taylor was not ahead of the second rearmost defender Alvas Powell (CIN). Whereas the VAR had formed the opinion that Taylor was leaning into an offside position and deemed there was sufficient evidence, the non-offside call on the field was clearly and obviously incorrect.

On-field decision: Goal.
Type of review: No goal – offside.
Final decision after review: No goal.
Length of review: 1:45.

PRO’s Opinion: It is always challenging to be conclusive in close situations which involve a judgment having to be made on players leaning. Taylor could be offside, but PRO’s instruction to VARs is to not intervene when it is so close.


NE vs TOR: Review for penalty kick (foul challenge) – given


What Happened: A penalty kick was awarded to Toronto FC by the on-field referee for what he perceived in real-time to be a foul by Matt Polster (NE) on Deandre Kerr (TOR) within the New England Revolution penalty area.

The VAR saw that Polster had made contact on the ball with his left foot as Kerr was swinging through with his left foot to strike the ball. This resulted in Kerr making contact with Polster’s left foot, and rather than a penalty, this should have resulted in the award of a direct freekick to the defense.

As such, she recommended a Video Review for the penalty kick decision to be rescinded. However, when the referee looked at the footage for himself at the RRA, he disagreed that the on-field decision was an error. He felt Polster’s touch on the ball was not conclusive and that Polster had unfairly impeded Kerr’s shooting action. As such, he retained the penalty decision.

On-field decision: Penalty kick.
Type of review: No penalty.
Final decision after review: No change.
Length of review: 3:50.

PRO’s Opinion: PRO feels this was a good Video Review recommendation. The initial on-field decision was quite challenging as everything happened quickly, and the touch on the ball by Polster was slight. It is somewhat understandable how the referee misjudged what happened in real-time. However, it is disappointing he did not change his call once at the RRA, as this was not a penalty kick.


SKC vs ATX: Review for penalty kick (handball) – not given


What Happened: A cross by Dániel Sallói (SKC) was blocked by Felipe Martins (ATX) in the Austin FC penalty area. The referee did not detect an offense in real-time and allowed play to continue while the VAR checked footage of the incident in order to establish whether the non-award of a penalty kick was a clear and obvious error.

On doing so, the VAR saw that Martin’s right hand was up by his head in an unnatural position making himself a bigger obstacle for the ball to pass. The ball struck the right hand of Martins, which created a barrier for it.

This was a clear handball offense, and the VAR correctly recommended a Video Review. After looking at the footage for himself at the RRA the referee agreed and awarded a penalty kick to Sporting Kansas City.

On-field decision: Play on.
Type of review: Penalty kick – handball.
Final decision after review: Penalty.
Length of review: 1:50.

PRO’s Opinion: Handball offenses where the ball makes contact with the arm closest to the goal line can be challenging for the on-field referee to detect, and this was a good, efficient use of the Video Review system to ensure the correct outcome was reached when a clear error in the non-awarding of a penalty kick had occurred.


SKC vs ATX: Review for goal (offside in APP) – not given


What Happened: A goal was scored by Diego Fagúndez (ATX) and awarded by the on-field match officials. The VAR formed the opinion that Fagúndez had been in an offside position when the ball was shot towards goal by teammate Ethan Finlay before goalkeeper John Pulskamp (SKC) had saved the shot but only succeeded in parrying it to Fagúndez to score. The VAR recommended a Video Review for the goal to be disallowed for offside, and when the referee looked at the footage at the RRA, he agreed with the VAR and disallowed the goal.

The offside judgment on Fagúndez was a close one. In real-time, the fairly well-positioned assistant referee had judged that Fagúndez was not ahead of the second rearmost defender Andreu Fontàs (SKC). Whereas the VAR formed the opinion that Fagúndez’ s left foot was ahead of Fontàs and deemed there was sufficient evidence the conclude the non-offside call on the field was clearly and obviously incorrect.

On-field decision: Goal.
Type of review: No goal – offside
Final decision after review: No goal.
Length of review: 3:09.

PRO’s Opinion: The camera is not directly in line, and while Fagúndez looks to be just offside, it is not totally conclusive our instruction to VARs is to not intervene when it is so close.


SJ vs RSL: Review for penalty kick (handball) – not given


What Happened: Jeremy Ebobisse’s (SJ) shot on goal was blocked by defender Justen Glad (RSL). The referee did not detect an offense in real-time and allowed play to continue.

The VAR checked footage of the incident in order to establish whether the non-award of a penalty kick was a clear and obvious error and, on doing so, could see that Glad’s left arm was raised to head height, making himself unnaturally bigger. The arm made a barrier for the shot on goal when the ball struck it, and as such the VAR recommended a Video Review for a penalty kick to be awarded to San Jose Earthquakes. Having looked at the footage at the RRA, the referee agreed that a penalty kick should have been awarded and duly obliged.

He also correctly cautioned Glad for committing a handball offense which stopped a promising attack.

On-field decision: Play on.
Type of review: Penalty kick – handball.
Final decision after review: Penalty.
Length of review: 1:18.

PRO’s Opinion: This was a good use of the Video Review system to rectify a clear and obvious error.



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