US Crest

Referee Week In Review

Week 16 – ending July 13, 2008


This past weekend offered U.S. Soccer referees many challenges in the games.  Many referees were given the opportunity to work international club matches (games involving one or two foreign professional club teams) as well as national team matches (youth and women).  Overall, there were 26 professional-level games held in the United States last week.  The breakdown is as follows:

  • National Team:  3 games
  • International Club:  9 games
  • MLS:  5 games
  • SuperLiga:  4 games
  • USL-1:  5 games

As a result of the various games being played in the United States, American referees are being challenged with games that include a variety of styles, tactical approaches, temperament, and game pressures.  Many opportunities exist for referees who exhibit the qualities required to succeed at the highest levels. 

The highest level of youth soccer also took stage this past weekend with the kickoff of the inaugural U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals Week in Carson, California.  Nine referees and two assistant referees were selected to participate in the under 15/16 and under 17/18 finals competition based upon their performance at the over 2,000 games held throughout the season which began last September.  The participating officials are being mentored through the eight days of competition by U.S. Soccer Referee Department staff consisting of Paul Tamberino, Alfred Kleinaitis, Brian Hall, and Herb Silva.  Assisting staff were three of U.S. Soccer’s full-time professional referees:  Baldomero Toledo, Terry Vaughn, and Ricardo Salazar.   Daily game and performance analysis are provided to all of the officials working the games.  These sessions have been open to the local referee community as well so they can receive the same information and learn as well.

  • On the web page, you can listen to weekly podcasts highlighting the main issues from the “Referee Week in Review” document.  On the homepage, look mid page for the tab that says “Podcasts.”


Assistant Referee – Referee Cooperation

Success of the referee team is heavily dependent upon the cooperation and interaction of the referee crew.  This cooperation must be established in the pregame meeting/instructions led by the referee prior to kickoff.  Referees, assistant referees (ARs), and fourth officials must utilize this pregame time to establish the perimeters for each other’s participation in game management.  In addition, the time can be critical in reviewing key points from U.S. Soccer’s publication:  “Guide to Procedures for Referees, Assistant Referees, and Fourth Officials.”  This guide outlines U.S. Soccer’s approved mechanics for the referee team’s management of the game.  (Note:  the guide is available at the following web address:

Thorough preparation can lead to prevention and correct decisions.  The following two clips will provide clear examples where effective communication and coordination leads to quick and appropriate decisions. 

Video Clip 1:  Chivas USA at Galaxy (76:51)

In this clip, the referee team correctly disallows a goal as the ball fully crosses the goal line.  The referee and the AR provide many examples of silent communication that is appropriate for the situation facing them.  The following summarizes the correct procedures followed by the referee team:

  • Ball over goal line

The AR follows, as close as possible, the ball all the way to the goal line.  The final replay on the clip shows his position.  The AR then correctly signals to the referee that the ball has left the field of play and a goal kick should be awarded.  In this case, the AR can first signal the ball out but raising the flag straight up prior to using the flag to signal goal kick.  This would be advisable in this case due to the quick return of the ball to play after having crossed the goal line.

  • Goal disallowed

Seeing the ARs signal, the referee disallows the goal.  The referee makes a definitive visual signal that the goal is not valid leaving no question as to his decision.  Notice the referee’s position as he disallows the goal.  He is close to play and also has a good view of the action.  The referee’s visual signal and position helps to “sell” or clearly articulate the decision.  In other words, the referee is able to make the call in a manner that communicates confidence and certainty in decision making.  Selling a call through presence makes the decision more acceptable to players, coaches, and the general public.

  • AR moves up the touchline

As soon as the AR sees the attacking player rushing toward him, the AR attempts to put distance between himself and the dissenting player.  This is an appropriate mechanic for the AR to use as this makes the player’s action more noticeable, more visual. 

  • AR motions for a caution

After the AR has begun his run up the touchline and the player fails to stop, the AR correctly stops and signals to the referee that the player must be cautioned.  The AR uses a silent signal by patting his breast pocket thereby indicating the attacker should be cautioned for dissent by word and action.

  • Referee supports AR

Referees must support their ARs.  In cases where players rush toward ARs to dissent, the referee must attempt to intervene and “cut them off at the pass” preventing the escalation of the dissent.  In this case, notice how quickly the referee is in the picture.

  • Issue a caution

The player’s actions (visual and verbal) are sufficient and should be penalized by a yellow card for dissent by action and word.

Video Clip 2:  TFC at Chicago (35:36)

Once again, the AR provides valuable assistance to the referee in terms of misconduct identification.  Watch as the play develops.  The final challenge/tackle occurs approximately ten yards from the AR so his assistance with the foul and the misconduct is appropriate.   The AR decides that the foul is “reckless” in nature and, thus, the challenge deserves to be cautioned.  The foul lacks the speed and the force to be considered a red card.  Watch closely as the AR uses his left hand to pat his left breast pocket thereby signaling the player should be cautioned for the reckless challenge/tackle (unsporting behavior).

The silent and visual yellow card signal (touching of the breast pocket) used by the AR in the previous two clips should be discussed and its implementation planned during the pregame meeting between the referee team.  Officials would be advised to also discuss the silent, visual signal for a red card (pat to the back short’s pocket).

Simulation or Diving

“Week In Review 15” outlined criteria the referee should consider when evaluating whether a player’s actions should be considered cautionable for simulation/diving (unsporting behavior).  (Click on this link to refer to “Week In Review 15” for further information)  Key to successful identification were the following terms:

Human Act vs. Intentional/Deliberate Act

  • Human Act

Does the situation involve incidental contact?

  • Intentional/Deliberate Act

Is there deception involved?  No contact or contact deliberately created by the attacker.

Video Clip 3:  TFC at Chicago (11:02)

In the clip provided, the referee decides that the attacker’s action were an “intentional act” in which there was no contact with the goalkeeper or the contact was created by the attacker’s intentional actions.  Hence, the attacker is cautioned by the referee for unsporting behavior. 

In reviewing the three views of the attacker’s actions, determine whether the player going to the ground is:

  • A result of a foul by the goalkeeper

If the referee determines that the goalkeeper makes contact with the attacker in a manner that would have prevented the attacker from keeping possession of the ball, then the referee should award a penalty kick and caution the goalkeeper for unsporting behavior;

  • A “human act”

Incidental contact that was accidental in nature and not a cautionable offense:  the result of a collision by both players causing the attacker to go to the ground; or

  • An “intentional act”

The attacker’s actions were predetermined and done to deceive and cheat the referee into giving a decision in his favor. 

As stated last week, when contact exists between an attacker and a defender, it is difficult for the referee to justify cautioning the attacker for simulation/diving (unsporting behavior).  The exception may be the attacker’s actions after the completion of the simulation.  In this event, the attacker may be guilty of embellishment and be issued a yellow card for unsporting behavior.

In this clip, diving, simulation, or embellishment do not exist.  This means that there is no “intentional act” of deception involved and a caution is not warranted and should not have been issued.  The referee must then examine the situation and determine if either the goalkeeper has fouled the attacker (restart with a penalty kick and a caution to the goalkeeper) or whether there is a “human act” which involves incidental contact that has resulted from a fair challenge for the ball by the goalkeeper (no foul and the game would be restated appropriately).

100% Misconduct

Situations involving 100% misconduct have been common themes in multiple “Week In Reviews.”  This past week is no exception.  When the topic of 100% misconduct is examined, examples are provided that intended to clearly identify situations in which the referee has no leeway when determining whether a yellow or red card should be issued.  These are fouls or incidents in which a player must be cautioned or sent off.

Thorough review of the examples provided regularly, should help steer officials toward consistency and clearer identification of actions classified as misconduct.  Both 100% misconduct clips involve challenges from behind and are “reckless” and, therefore, must be cautioned.

Video Clip 4:  TFC at Chicago (52:36)

The referee is close to play.  Key to the referee’s ability to identify the defender’s action is that the referee does not turn immediately follow the ball as it is played away by the attacker who is eventually fouled.  The referee anticipates a late challenge based upon the defender’s body language and run up to the attacker as the attacker passes the ball.  This is not the typical sliding tackle.  This is a form of reckless challenge that involves a defender who stays on his feet.  Late contact is made with the upper thigh/leg of the defender as well as the attacker’s foot to the back of the attacker’s leg/ankle.  The referee must recognize this as unsporting behavior and issue a yellow card.  Note, key to identification is the tardiness of the challenge, the fact the challenge is from behind, and the fact that the ball is not within playing distance.

Video Clip 5:  Colorado at San Jose (76:45)

This clip represents a tackle in which the tackler/defender utilizes “excessive force” and “endangers the safety of an opponent.”  Both of these components are provided in the Laws of the Game as factors that make challenges serious foul play and offenses for which a player must be red carded.   The defender lunges at the opponent – from behind – using excessive force.  The attacker is unaware of the defender’s uncontrolled challenge and is unable to protect himself from the tackle.  Notice how a scissors-type tackle is used.  The defender’s trailing leg connects with the back of the attacker’s ankles and Achilles.  Consequently, the defender should be sent off for serious foul play.  Keys to identifying the tackle as a red card are:  ball gone, challenge from behind, no opportunity exists to cleanly dispossess the opponent of the ball, and two legs are used in defender’s lunging at the attacker.  This type of tackle does not belong in the game at any level.  Note, the AR should be prepared to provide assistance to the referee as the foul occurs near the touchline.  The AR should feel empowered to use the visual signal referenced in video clip 2 above to signal his opinion of the tackle and to reinforce the seriousness of the foul.


Work Rate and Preparation

The challenge this weekend will be for officials to maintain a high level work rate that matches that of the game.  This is the last full weekend of games prior to the MLS All Star game in Toronto, Canada on July 24th.  Work rate and focus need to be maintained despite weather conditions.  Several new players will be making their MLS debut as the transfer window has reopened.  Be cognizant of these players and be knowledgeable of their background and what they bring to the game.

Finally, referees and ARs working MLS games should begin preparation for the Mid-Season Professional Referee Seminar being held in Dallas, Texas between July 24 and 27, 2008.  Each official and referee inspector will receive a CD containing homework required to prepare for an intensive session reviewing critical components needed to build on the season’s success to date.  Group work and group presentations on multiple topics required to finish the professional season on a strong note will be the focus of the seminar.