Referee Vaughn was right on Moreno goal

By Paul Gardner

I'll confess to amazement when referee Terry Vaughn allowed Jaime Moreno's goal against Philadelphia last Saturday. Not that I saw anything wildly wrong with what Moreno did, anything that smacked of a foul, like crude body contact. Nothing like that at all. But we’ve become accustomed to the fact that goalkeepers are granted considerable privileges and seem at times to be almost untouchable.

What usually happens in cases like this one -- where the goalkeeper has possession and is releasing the ball within his allotted six seconds -- is that any sort of proximity by an opposing player is immediately whistled as a foul. Even if the referee allows proximity, the whistle will surely blow if the opposing player attempts any sort of movement toward the ball.

Moreno certainly did that, he came up with the ball, and he scored. And Vaughn allowed it. Hence my amazement. Evidently my surprise was justified, because I now see that Paul Tamberino, the refereeing tsar at the USSF, says that the goal should not have been allowed.

Tamberino, who is American, chooses to use the pompous British word laws, instead of the American word rules, I don’t know why, so we get this: “By law there can be no interference ... with the goalkeeper’s ability to release the ball within six or seven seconds.” Right -- what Rule 12 actually says is that it is an offense to “prevent the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands.” But there is an obvious difference between what Tamberino is saying, and what the rules say: The words “from his hands.”

The implication of the rules wording is that once the goalkeeper has released the ball from his hands, then it is up for grabs, and an opponent may surely make a play for it. The question then becomes this: had Philadelphia goalkeeper Chris Seitz released the ball “from his hands” when Moreno took possession of it?

Moreno was certainly hovering nearby -- maybe two yards away -- as Seitz held the ball forward with his left hand (therefore still in control of it), getting ready to punt, I assume. At this point there is no evidence of any aggressive move from Moreno toward the ball.

What happens next is -- or seems to be from the not very good TV replays -- that Seitz lets the ball slip from his left hand. As it heads downward, toward the grass -- and at this point, Seitz is not (by law, you understand) “in possession of the ball” -- Moreno starts to close in, and only after the ball hits the ground does Moreno actually play it.

That fact, I believe, exempts Moreno from punishment. In the “Interpretations” section of the rule book, there is this: “A player must be penalized for playing in a dangerous manner if he kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it.” Moreno did not do that -- Seitz had clearly lost control of the ball (and could hardly be said to be “in the process of releasing it”), which was then on the ground before Moreno kicked, or attempted to kick, it.

I realize it is considered rather bad form to actually criticize a goalkeeper, but I’d have to say that Seitz made a mess of this. His assertion that Moreno stepped in front of him is inaccurate. Moreno did nothing wrong.

Goalkeepers definitely need special protection -- particularly when they’re leaping to grab a high ball, and when they go to ground, when their hands and head are in danger. In those two specific plays, maybe the referee is justified in blowing his whistle early, if he sees danger looming.

Of course goalkeepers exploit this situation, introducing a new element of danger into the game by going hard into challenges with their knee dangerously raised. As a protection to hold off a challenger, the raised knee is acceptable; as an offensive weapon used when a goalkeeper is himself moving to challenge, it should not be permitted, as it is a flagrant example of dangerous play.

As I said -- at first glance, I was surprised that Vaughn allowed the goal, because I am totally used to seeing forwards called for a foul when they so much as get anywhere near a goalkeeper. Moreno was certainly close to Seitz -- but was he “interfering” in any way?  Physically, no. Mentally, possibly he was making Seitz nervous, making him hurry his punt. But is that an offense? If it is, then goalkeeper protection is beginning to look like wet nursing. So that we all know where we are, perhaps we need a new “law” (should that be a capital L?) stipulating the goalkeeper protection radius, say two or three yards?

What I’m saying is this: I was wrong in my first impression that Moreno had interfered. And I think Paul Tamberino is wrong when he says the goal should not have been allowed. I think referee Terry Vaughn got this one 100 percent right.

13 comments about "Referee Vaughn was right on Moreno goal".
  1. Craig Schroeder, April 14, 2010 at 8:30 a.m.

    You've got to be kidding. What your suggesting - allowing Moreno's actions and goal to stand as allowable conduct in the future -is outrageous. It opens a pandora's box of "gamesmanship" that offensive players could employ while a goalkeeper attempts to punt or throw the ball. I don't think you understand the spirit of the game, or at least you're taking an ill-advised stand based upon your myopic view of the rules of the game.

  2. Kaj Miller, April 14, 2010 at 8:50 a.m.

    I was at the game and I've watched the replays. You can't be serious. Beyond being unsportsmanlike, Moreno's actions, including the fake swipe with the foot as Seitz released the ball, were clearly interference. Correct call would have been no goal and a yellow card for Moreno. I don't necessarily blame Vaugh. He was probably sprinting back to get in position. His assistant referee should have been vigorously waving his flag to give some help.

  3. David Dir, April 14, 2010 at 9:32 a.m.

    Not a big blogger and Enjoy articles that make me question things but this one makes me wonder wether you really have an idea of what you want to see in a game. No question goalkeeper mistake , and Moreno was doing whatever he could to unnerve the goalkeeper which is fine if the the referee deals with it. A ridiculously bad call by referee. Defending the call , you dont really even defend it but show a hidden agenda trying to make some spiritual statement about the game against goalkeepers having too much leeway. As if trying to make some sort of symbolic point that goalkeepers get special treatment makes every infraction against them ok in the game . Next thing you know well have games 90 minutes where forty five of the minutes will be players trying to impede block or trick the goalkeepers from punting the ball
    Now that will be a great example of the beautiful game

  4. Robert Kiernan, April 14, 2010 at 10:12 a.m.

    Well I can clearly remember watching that soccer diva... Giorgio Chinglia, ALWAYS standing close to the opposing goalkeeper trying to make him uncomfortable and possibly misjudge his distribution... making him go the opposite direction from that he wished to deliver the ball. Now admittedly that was years ago and there have been several changes in the rules just to how much time or how many steps a keeper could take... but this isn't all that new... and there will always be a question of interpretation of the "spirit" of the rules when it comes to the one player who can routinely use his hands during the course of play. The days of rolling the ball on the ground and picking it back up are long since gone... but then those who watched Steve Hunt nick the ball away from Tony Chursky in the '77 Soccer Bowl will never forget that keepers CAN make mistakes... and sometimes they are costly. But gamesmanship has and always will be part of the game... and rules will be made and changed to deal with this... hey, that's just always going to be part of the game.

  5. Edvin Hernandez, April 14, 2010 at 10:25 a.m.

    Paul, you got this one wrong. I understand you wanting to see the game from a different dimension and are not afraid to go at it alone. Moreno, however, does interfere with Seitz releasing the ball from his hands. Moreno makes a faint forward towards the ball while the ball is still on the goalie's hands. Moreno's faint forward towards the ball is an offense given that it was a deliberate action which makes a goalie actually not want to release the ball from their hands.

  6. Brian Turner, April 14, 2010 at 10:32 a.m.

    No way. Moreno obviously lunges at Seitz as he releases the ball which is not allowed. From what you are saying an opposing forward only need wait for the ball to leave the hands of the keeper before sticking a foot in to try and steal it away. Nonsense. The keeper has possession of the ball untill it is thrown, rolled, or kicked away. A punt of the ball consists of several parts including the release of the ball and the eventual contact with the foot. It is all one motion and as such the whole action is possession. By your estimation any player not touching the ball can not have posession, which we all know is not the case. Having control over the ball through body position and occaional touches is more important than constant physical contact with it.

  7. Lawrence Smith, April 14, 2010 at 10:51 a.m.

    Paul Gardner demonstrates his ineptness yet again in his commentary on the Moreno incident. In the guidelines to US referees from the USSF we find the following: "A goalkeeper is considered to be in control of the ball:
    • while the ball is between his hands or between his hand and any
    surface (e.g. ground, own body)
    • while holding the ball in his outstretched open hand
    • while in the act of bouncing it on the ground or tossing it into the air
    When a goalkeeper has gained possession of the ball with his hands, he cannot be challenged by an opponent."
    Moreno obviously lunges at Seitz before and during his release, which according to the USSF still constitutes possession by the keeper. Gardner, do us a favor and do your homework before you go public.

  8. Sylvester Lin, April 14, 2010 at 11:07 a.m.

    The TV commentator called the lunge at Seitz a "feint" and applauded Moreno as "crafty". Paul, apparently the commentator and you do not understand football at all. By calling Tamberino's quotation of proper FIFA term "Law" pompus, you showed that you are the pompus one. By insisting the word "rules" to be used by American, you exemplified what the rest of the world hates most about us - the American arrogance. The "feint" or "attempt" to kick the ball while Seibt was about to punt was definitely a foul and affected Seibt's ability to deliver the punt. It was against the "Spirit and Letter of the Law" and shame on Moreno - he should have been carded. By splitting hair on the difference of physical and mental interference, when even by your own admission that you were amazed and surprised, you again showed that you have no idea of the concept of "fair play" in football. Next you are going to call me pompus and unpatriotic for not using the term "soccer". What an arrogant fool.

  9. Kent James, April 14, 2010 at 11:40 a.m.

    Paul, I'm disappointed that you think Moreno's "crafty" attempt to interfere with the goalkeeper should be part of "the beautiful game". It's gamesmanship and against the spirit of the game. While you are right the goalkeepers have been given such tender treatment by officials that they sometimes get away with murder, in this case, the offender is clearly Moreno, a player I usually admire. Moreno's behavior here is no different than pulling a shirt out of sight of the referee, purposely taking down a player just outside the box, kicking the ball away to prevent a quick restart, or making a wall 2 yds in front of the ball. These behaviors are sometimes effective, but go against the spirit of the game and are the reason that referees carry cards. You're on the wrong side of this one, and given your history of advocating creative play and speaking out against thuggery, I'm disappointed to see you take the side of people who try to get away with whatever they can to win. The goalkeeper should be allowed to get the ball back in play as quickly as possible so that we can see the creative players do their stuff, and anything that encourages opponents to prevent the keeper from doing so should be outlawed (or should I say "ruled out"??).

  10. Caroline Lambert, April 14, 2010 at 12:25 p.m.

    If this type of gamesmanship is considered acceptable, I predict that we will eventually have a new rule that provides a "no interference" zone around a goalkeeper, exactly like the recently added rule about how far opponents can stand from player taking a throw in.

  11. Gonzalo Munevar, April 14, 2010 at 12:29 p.m.

    What are you people talking about? The ball hit the ground. It was fair game, then. George Best did the same sort of thing in his heyday and was much celebrated for it. The goalie was bouncing the ball up and down, as goalies used to do in those days, and Best came from behind and took it away when the ball hit the ground. As I recall, his goal was also allowed.

  12. Sylvester Lin, April 14, 2010 at 1:12 p.m.

    Gonzalo, please go back and check your history. George Best did the same to Gordon Banks and the goal was disallowed, even under old laws for being unsportsmanlike. Under the current laws, you absolutely cannot do what Best did in the good old days. What's good for Maradona doesn't justify what Henry did, right?

  13. Ronnie j Salvador, April 14, 2010 at 5:02 p.m.

    A big issue I see with the goal being allowed: you will now see this propogated at all levels, including rec soccer. Most of the soccer players in the USA [maybe the world?] are 'rec' players. Would it be a positive thing that we'll see 8 year olds in Fall rec soccer [or Spring rec] start to challenge the goalkeeper? These rec games are not refereed by FIFA refs, but by youth or volunteer refs. Our town rec outlawed this type of agression towards the keeper years ago. But if the pros start popularizing it, then it will filter down to the youth and rec ranks. This type of play might be mayhem at these levels.

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