Monday, October 17, 2016

Assessment and mistakes

Yesterday I did my assessment on a U17 boys match and while there was drama and a good match overall (a 2-2 tie), there wasn't much to talk about other than it was competitive and that the main criticism I received was that I was out of place in terms of passing lanes, etc. And yes, I did feel clumsy and kind of in the middle. I didn't go too deep on my AR's quadrants and that was another point of emphasis that I need to change.

However, the most interesting thing of the weekend was the match right after. I originally was not going to do the next match because I wanted the assessor to have time to give me good feedback, but when it was clear that there wouldn't be a center should I not accept, I accepted.

It was a fairly benign match between two U17 girls squads. Maybe 10 fouls all match. However, in the second half, I made a mistake that I need to learn from. White #55 was the one attacker who could generate some offence for her team. She is in the corner and there is a little bit of action where she probably was fouled, but my AR didn't indicate anything (and he was somewhat of a junior AR, so I wasn't really expecting a ton of help on foul recognition). The ball goes out to touch and he signals for a throw in for the red team. I felt like I lost the opportunity to call the foul and instead gave the throw in to the white team. Let's say it now, "don't correct a mistake with another mistake".

So on that throw in, the ball goes into the box, white chests in down and gets wiped out by a defender, very possible DOGSO, though the defender, fortunately did legitimately attempt to play the ball, so yellow card for her. But I felt like I had had a direct impact on the score. They convert the penalty and with 10 minutes left, they are up 1-0.

With 5 minutes left, red has a great through ball and the attacker gets knocked down inside the box. Not as clear cut as the other PK, but still, a PK nonetheless. White coach goes absolutely ballistic and I know the coach well, which bothered me because I thought he respected my judgement, but I think I know what happened. He wanted to have a conversation with me about the call, before the PK was taken. I later inferred that the reason he did that was to try to ice the PK taker. But I didn't walk over until after the PK (too late to change my restart, by the way) and the girl buried it for a final 1-1. It was interesting that the coach might have tried to get some gamesmanship in there, but then, perhaps if I were the coach, I would too.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Last School of Excellence class and another first

On the eve of my assessment this Sunday, I have a couple of comments to make regarding the 2 year stint I was in for the school of excellence. We held the last class a couple of weeks ago, during the first full weekend of all the leagues that needed us referees out there. One of the key improvements I hope to see for next time is to fit the classes into times when there is no refereeing going on that is needed. Perhaps hold a couple of sessions in winter, a couple in the middle of summer and one towards the end of a season. In fact, my suggestion would be something like late February, late June and early December. That way there is little chance of clashing with the start or end of a league.

The real problem is that the school of excellence in this first iteration was mainly focused on the younger kids that have a real chance of working higher level games. I see a couple of kids that are serious potential to be the next Mark Geiger or Kari Seitz but they are the minority for sure. Most of us there, young and old, are going to be Grade 6 at best and never progress from there. And I am fine with that for me, some of the younger kids with more ambitious goals may have to conform to that given the dwindling numbers you get at the higher levels. The younger kids that do some of the special tournaments that I can only dream of happen to work through Thanksgiving or some other major holiday and therefore the School of Excellence has to hold sessions when they are outside of one of those major tournaments. In this first go, it was structured to benefit the needs of the few over the needs of the many. I really don't know if I will sign up again for another two years. That would be eight weekends that I would have to attend and miss out on a lot of matches again. I will think about it long and hard, but right now, I am leaning towards a no.

On another note, I figured I would be done with all these occurrences that shouldn't happen. But the new rulebook has different opinions. One of the new rules is that if a player commits a foul or misconduct that is going to have him or her sent off, but the referee applies advantage on the play, the player is still essentially "gone" and therefore cannot participate anymore but you administer justice the next time the ball goes out of play or if the player becomes involved in active play. How often are you going to have this happen? Probably twice in your reffing career if I were to take a guess. Well, it so happens that this past tournament weekend, I was centering a match and there was one player that received a yellow for dangerously lunging at an opponent and while he made minimal contact, it was the third time he had done it, so out came the yellow. I had had a quiet word with him after the first studs up lunge with no contact. The second was more of a public "seriously, cut it out" admonishment and the third was a yellow card. In all of these instances, they had the potential of causing harm but they were still clumsy and ill timed. Had he really wanted to hurt someone, he could have done it easily. It was more of his way of trying to recover the ball. This was U17 boys travel soccer, so not the kids first rodeo for sure.

In the second half, he had calmed down quite a bit and figured he had decided to just play. But with his team down 2-0, he made a nice run towards the opponent's goal when a defender from the other team slides in and takes the ball away beautifully. The attacker though, left his leg down through the slide and therefore there was a little contact between the slide and the attacking player. The attacking player goes down and he looks at me with those "Well, are you going to call THAT?" eyes. I look at him and say "that was a great tackle, no contact so no foul". He then slams his fist on the ground and yells "I will show you a great tackle" and gets up and lunges himself again against an opponent with the ball. As he makes contact with the opponent, the opponent puts a great through ball to an onside attacker. I yell to the fouling player and the opponent that Number 5 White is gone and getting a red, do not retaliate and sprint to where the attacking play is happening.

Sure enough, the play does not develop into a goal or anything and the defense clears it up field. To White #5. The moment he touches the ball, I blow my whistle, show him the yellow for the tackle from 45 seconds ago and show him the red. In 8 years of reffing, I may have given about 12-13 red cards, and I do not recall ever giving an advantage on an eventual red card call. So I suspect that it will be another 8 years before I have this happen again, where the player becomes involved in play after being sent off but still on the field due to an advantage call. Has that happened to you?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Clarification on the new DOGSO

In my last post, I stated that I called a DOGSO PK and therefore the person committing the foul got only a yellow instead of a red card. I misspoke in a way because had that person used a push, shirt tug, or other already illegal method of stopping the player, it would have been a red card anyway. This is where I think that people are going to be a lot of confusion. I suspect that most referees will treat any DOGSO PK as a yellow and misapply the rules.

The rules state that you can commit a DOGSO PK foul and still be sent off if you handle the ball, or push, pull or do not or cannot play the ball with the tackle. In those cases, instead of a yellow, it should be a red card.

This may cause us to just go with yellow in the box, red outside, but it is much more nuanced than that. It will take some time, I believe, to have this trickle down to everyone.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Before I comment on the new DOGSO and my brush with it early in the new rule process, let me start by asking, where have all the referees gone? This weekend, which was the start of many leagues as well as State Cup, was brutal. My son had a center and two ARs that probably could even get a learner's permit in the state of Virginia. And that game was covered at least.

Ok, back to the DOGSO chat. As mentioned last week, the laws were altered a bit to reflect the need to eliminate the triple whammy when there is a denial of a clear chance to score and the foul was committed in the penalty area and resulted in a PK. If in your eternal wisdom, you believe there was an honest attempt to play the ball, but it resulted in a foul and not the result of pushing, pulling, handling or some other ill conceived attempt, then after the whistle, the person who committed the foul should be shown a yellow instead of a red if inside the penalty area. No change outside the penalty area, the red card is still shown in these cases.

The Labor Day weekend, I worked 6 matches. 2 centers and 4 ARs. And I got very lucky. My 4 ARs had the final scores of 6-0, 6-0, 9-0 and 6-0. My 2 centers nestled in those 4 lopsided matches were 3-1 and 5-3. Both very evenly matched and challenging in their own right. The first match, on Saturday was a U15 match. The game was not a hard match to call until the moment of truth. With White up 2-1 they were playing a very high line in their defense. It was something I couldn't really grasp why they were pressing so hard with the lead. The only way Red was generating chances was when white messed up their possession in the defense, so I wasn't too sure why white insisted in having their back line so far away from their keeper. Sure enough, with 10 minutes left in the second half, white lost the ball and red put a nice through ball to an attacker who outran the defender for a clear one on one chance with the white keeper the only defender standing in her way from tying up the match. The white keeper had been playing at the edge of her 18 all game since she had to clear a couple of balls before. She sprints out and the attacker and keeper meet about 25 yards from goal. The attacker makes a great cut to her left and the keeper sticks her leg out. She misses the ball and trips the attacker. Clear attempt to play the ball, but sadly, outside the box, and therefore a red card. It ended up working out in the end for white as the free kick resulted in nothing and then white ended up scoring an insurance goal.

In my other game, it was a U18 boys match. With the match 2-2, blue makes a great string of passes on white and leaves the blue attacker essentially one on one with the white keeper. As blue is about to take the shot with his right foot, a defender came in from the left, went through the attackers legs to get to the ball. It was a tough call in my head but I felt the attempt was "honest enough" where he tried to play the ball, albeit in a low percentage type tackle. It was still DOGSO but inside the box and it resulted in a PK, so I showed the yellow. In truth, I really didn't think it was that much of a DOGSO choice until a referee observer told me that he thought my new interpretation of the DOGSO was spot on. Funny how things work out like that sometimes.

Friday, September 9, 2016

New Stuff

It has been a while and for that I apologize. I have not been as diligent in writing, not because I don't have material, but rather, life seems to get in the way. One child is a senior, another a freshman and one starting Kindergarten so things were hectic these last couple of months.

So all this new stuff is hitting us since we last talked. Kickoffs can go backwards, new uniforms and you can't score on yourself off of a corner anymore. Where is the fun in all of this? Seriously, the things that matter most are the new uniforms. They look better, but the change in logo means we have to change EVERYTHING? I have 10 shirts, 3 pairs of shorts, countless pairs of socks (that initially don't change, thankfully) and a myriad of other USSF logoed things. I calculated the cost of my entire wardrobe change will be in the $350-$400 range. And being a grade 6, you kind of are expected to have Official Sports, and only Official Sports gear. Gee thanks. At least we can use the old stuff for another couple of years, but again, as a 6, I will be expected to buy the new gear sooner rather than later. Not cool.

Moving on to the new rules, I have read a couple of posts on the new rules and have the new IFAB document that has the new rules incorporated. The link is here:!/document. The new rules have a lot of common sense in them. Everyone used to tap the ball forward on kickoffs to have the second touch go backwards towards their midfielders 90% of the time, so why not eliminate the silly rule that the kick off had to go forward? It makes sense. I like it. There are a number of other rule changes as well. Fouls outside the field of play are now not a dropped ball if the ball was in play at the time. Just like that, there are a bunch of others. I do want to focus on the one that does affect us the most in terms of determining the outcome of a game, and that is the new DOGSO-F interpretation.

Before I go any further, I have NOT attended a new rules class (mostly because I was out of town the week that it was offered before the season started) so please understand that this is my possibly misguided interpretation of what the rules are. Don't take this as fact but rather as my initial interpretation.

With regards to DOGSO-F, the way I interpret it now is that the law makers decided to remove the so called triple whammy. That is, foul as last defender that denies obvious goal scoring opportunity inside the penalty area used to cause the following:

- Penalty kick called against the team committing the foul which as a high chance of being converted
- Red card for the defender
- Next game sit out for the defender

Now if there is a foul where the defender meets the criteria of committing a DOGSO-F foul and is genuinely trying to play the ball (not shoving, pulling the shirt, etc.) and the foul is committed inside the penalty area, then the card to show is a yellow. If it is outside of the penalty area, then it is still a red. This changes things quite a bit, in terms of considerations for the referee as now there is a change in thought process until we all get used to the new laws.

In my next article, I will speak to the last two centers where I had to apply DOGSO-F in each of them.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Don't keep it a secret

As I work these higher level games, 2 conclusions come to mind. One of them is that you get to work with many incredible, driven, determined and confident individuals and some of them are almost half my age. Quite incredible if you ask me. The other is that you don't really get paid any more than you did for the previous level of matches. These past two weekends, I worked a couple of WPSL matches that were quite interesting, especially in light of the little things you hear that are useful in my future matches.

In the level of talking, there is more than I normally do. The typical, "straight up", "don't be silly", etc. Then the other one that I heard as an AR for the first time was, "don't keep it a secret". Basically the center asked us to vocalize something that both teams could benefit from. His particular example was a ball that was on the touch line but not fully out, spinning close to the line or questionable. Everybody knows when it goes out because the AR will signal, but he had a ball that was not fully out and it looked out but was spinning in place and a player grabbed the ball thinking it was out with her hands. That lead to the only game of the match. He was being assessed and was told to not keep it a secret in an instance like that, where both teams can benefit from the information and no do something silly. While I believe that most of us do that as a center, we rarely do it as an AR. I liked the fact that the scenario presented clearly indicates when it is beneficial. This applies more at the higher levels rather than at the lower levels where interaction between referee and player is more ceremonial to verbalize it in a way. I know I don't verbalize nearly enough especially when I am an AR to players. What do you all think about the more verbalization?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Communicating with players

It has been a while again. I do apologize. What has kept me busy these past 5-6 weeks is what I want to talk about today. Since my last post, I have gone ahead and started working a lot more at the higher level leagues (yes, being a 6 has its advantages, and disadvantages). One of the advantages is being able to work PDL matches and CCL 23 matches, etc.

These matches are at a whole other level than the typical U15 match. There is a lot more thought and purposefulness to everything that goes on. In one PDL match, we had to arrive 90 minutes prior to kick off, had a minute by minute time table set out in our locker room and had actual paying public at the door. Not stuff I am used to.

One of the main things that really got me was the use of the communication systems. In the PDL match where I was a fourth official and then a State Cup final where I was AR2, I had the benefit of using an open mic system akin to what the professionals use. And it was mind blowing in terms of the different tactics that the centers used to convey their thoughts, what they were seeing and the level of chatter compared to what I am used to.

I was not aware at how little I talked until I started doing these open mic matches where I can hear all the little things that are said as part of drive bys and during dead time. In the PDL match, I worked with a center who kept the peace with players by saying "I'm right here" when action was happening. He did that to convey that he was close by and seeing what was going on and was either allowing it or to dissuade a defender from doing something silly. And it worked quite well. One thing that I will put in my back pocket.

The other one was during a State Cup final where the center referee kept telling the players what exactly happened (and again, position had a lot to do with that, since he was where he needed to be to sell the call he was making or not making). And he told them things like "I saw that, it went off your shoulder, I know you think it went off him, but you were too busy trying to head the ball that you didn't see it go off you, don't worry I got it." Things like that, it relaxed the players, especially at that level, the higher level players where things work differently than our garden variety U14 match, where players are scared to talk to the referee.

I am finding it so hard to work back down to the U12 levels now that I haven't done a low level match in 2-3 months. But this weekend, I go back to that, so hopefully I can still ref that level after working higher level matches almost exclusively for the past 2 months.