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USSF's Offside Ruling

Chivas USA's first goal against D.C. United last weekend? Offside. Definitely. How do I know? The USSF, which oversees MLS officiating, says so. In's Referee Week in Review, director of referee development Paul Tamberino and manager of assessment and training Brian Hall concluded:

At the moment the ball is passed by his teammate, virtually the entire body of the attacker is in front of the second-to-last defender. Hence, there is no benefit of doubt to the attack in this situation.
While the AR [assistant referee] is running forward, the defender is moving in the opposite direction. The AR has not given himself the best opportunity to get this decision correct because he is running forward and not sidestepping. Sidestepping would enable him to move with more precision and match the precise movements of the defender and, therefore, be more accurately positioned to make a split-second decision.

Click here for the complete review of the week in MLS and WPS. The Chivas-DCU video is here.

By Steve Goff  |  May 21, 2009; 10:07 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United , MLS  
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Next: Friday Kickaround


Soooo, what? Does DC United get to collect 2 more points, stand on top of the Eastern Division, and get to claim best team in MLS at the moment?

Thanks for the tipoff Steve.

Posted by: DadRyan | May 21, 2009 10:25 PM | Report abuse

Sorry Conference. Eastern Conference.

Posted by: DadRyan | May 21, 2009 10:29 PM | Report abuse

"Is there a sense of urgency [in getting a stadium built]? Absolutely," he said. "But I am under no time pressure. If it takes a little longer to get it done right, that's okay."

Wrong thread, but I'm usually a day late and 10 bucks short anyhow . .


Everybody Wang Chang, tonight . .

Posted by: delantero | May 21, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Not only was the AR wrong, but he doesn't know how to jog.


Posted by: Reignking | May 21, 2009 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Are there other teams in MLS that have had referees cost them 4 points in the standings. Is the referee quality really this bad or has odd luck been against DCU twice this season?

Posted by: mbyrd28 | May 21, 2009 11:12 PM | Report abuse

Is the referee quality really this bad or has odd luck been against DCU twice this season?

Posted by: mbyrd28 | May 21, 2009 11:12 PM

It's this bad. The referee's and assistants need to start being held accountable. And by accountable, they need to not be in the center for MLS games until assessors watch them elsewhere and decide they are ready for the bigtime again. Especially when one of the professional referees (Marrufo) is the one making mistakes.

Having said that, it would be a mighty short list by midseason if the USSF started banning refs from the highest level of the game.



Posted by: jayrockers | May 21, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

So, the moral of the story is, when United goes to LA, they need to score 4 or 5 goals to try and eliminate the officials from keeping the hosts in the game.

Posted by: writered21 | May 22, 2009 1:05 AM | Report abuse

Unrelated to this post, where are the music references this year, Steve? This is still the most cultured soccer blog around, is it not?

I'm bucking for Little Feat or The Pogues.

Posted by: KireDCU | May 22, 2009 1:27 AM | Report abuse

Are there other teams in MLS that have had referees cost them 4 points in the standings. Is the referee quality really this bad or has odd luck been against DCU twice this season?

Posted by: mbyrd28 | May 21, 2009 11:12 PM
DC's luck, I'd say. Mostly, the refereeing has improved right along with the league, but DC was unlucky to get Jair Marrufo for a center (infamous hand-growing-out-of-Wallace's-thigh call, and won't blow the whistle for two down with bleeding head wounds game) and an AR with bad mechanics. Granted that's four point DC should have, but I don't believe it's indicative of the overall quality of USSF referees.

Part of the problem is not getting younger referees enough USL-1, -2, -3, amature, W-league, etc., games to help them mature before they get to the big time - MLS and WPS. That was glaring in a couple of the Freedom's matches where the center was clearly not up to the task. I don't know what WPS's assignment process is (as opposed to MLS's, for example), but USSF has put some real lulus out there.

Posted by: schmuckatelli | May 22, 2009 7:18 AM | Report abuse

My thoughts as well about the 4 points. I know fans complain all the time but I wonder how many can point to official USSF verdicts saying "no goal" or "no PK"?

And I actually thing the leagues refereeing is getting better. Oh, not at the consistency it needs. Still some breakdowns. And the league still allows too much hammering of skilled players (thus promoting a physical brand of play). That said, I think the level of evaluation/analysis is not only better but different. Rather than refs being targets by coaches (evaluation was mostly by coaching reports) my sense is the work by people like Paul Tamberrino is now focused more on consistency with FIFA dictates, education (learning from mistakes).

At least that's my take anyway.

Posted by: JoeW1 | May 22, 2009 8:29 AM | Report abuse

While these two matches have cost 4 points, my guess is that over the course of the season all of this stuff usually evens out. We just remember the bad stuff and not the things that go in our favor that aren't quite right.

I am also glad they pointed out the elbow in the Freedom match that should have been dealt with properly but wasn't.

Posted by: fedssocr | May 22, 2009 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Could we have less telling the man to side-step and more telling him he's not fit to ref a u-12 match?

Don't any refs get fired?

Posted by: UnitedDemon | May 22, 2009 8:59 AM | Report abuse

@ KireDCU | May 22, 2009 1:27 AM

Read the comments dude. We've had quotes from Shakespeare, foreign national anthems, Rogers and Hammerstein, and - of course - Airplane.

@DadRyan: It doesn't matter whether you call it a division or conference; both are unforgivable trespasses upon the hallowed pitch of single-table football.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | May 22, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

"the hallowed pitch of single-table football."

Pitch? Football? Europoseur!!

Posted by: JkR- | May 22, 2009 10:18 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, USSF. I got a little tired of commentators (Tommy McMahon, Chris Sullivan - both of whom I like) saying how it was "so close". I guess you could possibly argue that it was close, but you could not possibly argue that it was onside.

Posted by: jsm91 | May 22, 2009 10:38 AM | Report abuse

I'm bummed he got the call wrong, but the comment by USSF seems unrealistic to me. They're asking refs to side-step as quickly as the players are sprinting forward. That's impossible.

Plus, I don't fully get how the AR's are supposed to get these calls right in the first place. No one can look in two different directions at the same time. If the ball is being played or even one-timed from 20 yards back, and you're supposed to be watching that and the back line and the attacker simultaneously and side-stepping as fast as a sprinter, how are you supposed to get it right anyway?

It's easy to see in slow motion or stop-action replay, but even then I have to look in two different places - the player passing the ball, and the attacker relative to the last defender.

Posted by: WorldCup | May 22, 2009 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Pitch? Football? Europoseur!!



Posted by: combedge | May 22, 2009 10:45 AM | Report abuse

As someone pointed out in a previous thread, Sunday's WPS match also came in for scrutiny. The officials in that match were criticized for not giving Boston's Christine Latham a straight red; the WPS front office had already concurred, in effect, by suspending her. But there was no adverse comment on the play involving the Freedom's Joanna Lohman, even though the league saw fit to show her a red card after the fact, so to speak.

Posted by: universityandpark | May 22, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

"Europoseur" That's brilliant.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | May 22, 2009 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Whether it's u10, rec league, MLS or Champions League people will always complain about the refs. Sometimes they'll be right.

Usually things balance out in the long run but in a low scoring sport like soccer a single decision, whether right or wrong, is often crucial. There will always be plenty of fodder for the critics.

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | May 22, 2009 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Offsides: Watch the line, listen for the thump of the ball.

OR you could look at the guy about to pass, then look for the runner.

It isn't that complicated. Fire him today.

Posted by: UnitedDemon | May 22, 2009 11:49 AM | Report abuse


Goff writes in his game story that it's clearly offside.

On the Tuesday, he writes that after looking at the video, it's onside.

Then USSF says it's offside, no question.

And yet fanboys all believe that this is so simple that they could do it. People who've never officiated a game in their lives, at any level, watching from a distance and a different angle on a high-def TV with replays think officiating is sooooooooo simple that they could do it from their couch.

It's ridiculous.

Posted by: very_clever_username | May 22, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Wait, wrong goal. My bad. I thought you were referring to the Quaranta goal. I'll hang up now.

Posted by: very_clever_username | May 22, 2009 12:31 PM | Report abuse

As a neutral I feel the need to call BS on this ruling by USSF.

"virtually the entire body of the attacker"

So along with side stepping at the same rate as one of the fastest players in the league an assistant referee is being asked to make a body size analysis to determine if an attacking players body is in alignment with a defender or he is virtually past the defender. Does anyone else see the impossibility of making that determination at full speed from one side of the field. The assistant referee must also while determining the exact position of two players determine the exact moment that a player has passed the ball.


Posted by: csd1 | May 22, 2009 1:18 PM | Report abuse


Re: "virtually the entire body of the attacker"
That's not what USSF is asking. In this case, size doesn't matter. All an AR needs to determine is if a part of the attacker's body with which he may legally play the ball is closer to the goal line than the the defender's closest body part with which he may legally play the ball. You can, realistically, be flagged and whistled offside if your head is behind the 2nd to last defender's heel.

Posted by: mason08 | May 22, 2009 4:31 PM | Report abuse

That offside call is the single hardest call to make in attacker sprinting forward while the defender is sprinting the other way to try and set a trap, with the ball played from far away. Should a professional ref get that call right most of the time? Sure. But those of you that are calling for his head are out of your minds. Those of you that are saying that all refs should spend more time in the lower leagues are exactly right though. the USSF is way to fond of identifying refs they love and early on and throwing them into MLS to quickly. No one should ref in MLS without a season in USL1 first.

Posted by: icehippo | May 22, 2009 4:52 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

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