Commentary

Red card? How to call DOGSO


By Randy Vogt

Denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity (DOGSO) is a red-card offense. This rule, part of Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct, is to prevent the defense from fouling to destroy their opponents’ most dangerous scoring opportunities and takes into account handling the ball and fouling an attacker moving toward the goal by an offense punishable by a free kick or penalty kick. It’s obviously a very important decision for the ref to determine DOGSO as the team would then be playing short and the sent off player would be suspended.

Let’s take handling the ball first. This obviously does not apply to a goalkeeper within his or her own penalty area but applies to the keeper who comes out of the penalty area to deliberately handle the ball or a field player who deliberately handles the ball on a shot that was going into the goal.

Two decades ago, a field player would deliberately handle the ball to prevent a goal and just receive a caution. The number of goal-preventing deliberate handling offenses declined when this was added to the list of send-offs.

Please be aware that it is not a send-off, just a direct kick foul, when a keeper makes a save inside the penalty area and his momentum takes the ball outside the area while still holding it.

Should a defender (not the goalkeeper) deliberately handle the ball that winds up going into the goal anyway, you allow the goal and caution that defender for unsporting behavior.

Now let me write about an attacker moving toward the opponent’s goal fouled by a defender. A 2002 U.S. Soccer position paper to help guide the officials in this very important decision required four elements for an obvious goalscoring opportunity before the foul becomes a red card offense. They are described as the four D’s:

• Defenders: Not counting the player committing the foul, there is at most one defender between the foul and the goal. That other defender is generally the goalkeeper. The keeper committing a foul can be sent off for this offense as well.

• Distance to the ball: The attacker must be close enough to the ball to continue playing it at the time of the foul.

• Distance to the goal: The attacker must be close enough to the goal to have a legitimate chance to score. So being in or near the opponent’s penalty area is more likely to be an obvious goal-scoring opportunity than the attacker being in the team’s defensive half of the field.

• Direction: The attacker must be moving toward the opponent’s goal at the time of the foul, not toward a corner flag or away from the goal.

Referees officiating with AR’s can look to them for guidance as the assistant will often have a better view if all 4 D’s applied. The AR could signal hand on chest (caution as the yellow card is kept there) or hand on back pocket of shorts for DOGSO (send off as the red card is often kept there).

Now here’s the dilemma when I wrote "Preventive Officiating" as it’s a guide mainly for youth soccer referees. We need to use some common sense when applying DOGSO to the youngest ages in youth games. My young cousins play youth soccer and they and their parents know that they will be sent off and suspended if they deliberately try and hurt an opponent. They have no understanding at all of the four D’s. For a 7-year-old who is the last defender (besides the keeper) and accidentally trips an opponent, the game could best be served by blowing the whistle and keeping your cards in your pocket. Same deal with a young keeper who comes outside the penalty area and deliberately handles the ball. Most likely he does not realize what he did.

Should anybody question why no red card was given for a foul of an attacker going toward goal, if you can find a reason that one of the 4 D’s did not apply in some way, you can respond like that. It happened to me as an AR for a boys U-12 State Cup final between two rival teams. Yellow was winning 2-0 with 12 minutes left to play. The yellow keeper punted the ball and the second-to-last defender on white deliberately handled the ball at the halfway line. The yellow coach yelled for a red card. The ref came to me for advice and I told him that it was a yellow card offense for unsporting behavior and not DOGSO as two of the four D’s did not apply. The two D’s that did not apply were distance to the goal (foul committed at halfway line) and distance to the ball (attacker was 10 yards away from ball).

The yellow coach went ballistic upon seeing a yellow card and only calmed down a bit when I explained why DOGSO did not apply. The State Youth Referee Administrator was watching and he agreed that this was not DOGSO. Yellow wound up winning 2-1. If white had come back to win the game, the yellow coach would have blamed me but it was the right decision.

(Randy Vogt has officiated over 9,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to 6-year-olds being cheered on by very enthusiastic parents. In "Preventive Officiating," he shares his wisdom gleaned from thousands of games and hundreds of clinics to help referees not only survive but thrive on the soccer field. You can visit the book’s website at www.preventiveofficiating.com.)

13 comments about "Red card? How to call DOGSO".
  1. George Gorecki, December 19, 2014 at 10:06 a.m.

    This is a great explanation of the referee's decision process. My question is, does the principle of DOGSO apply when the attacker never touches the ball? In an MLS match in 2013, Jeff Larentowicz was sent off when he tripped an attacking player running into space in the penalty area. An opponent had floated a pass into the area and Larentowicz's legs got caught up in the opponent's legs as the opponent was making an angled run into the box. With GK Sean Johnson sprinting off his line to intervene, it was unclear if the tripped attacking player would have even reached the ball first. And if he had, it's unclear whether the scoring opportunity was obvious. A foul and a PK would have been appropriate punishment, but a red card seemed harsh when the scoring chance was far from obvious.

  2. Ref Evaluator, December 19, 2014 at 10:15 a.m.

    So what is suggested here is to ignore or twist some rules when applying to young players. I do not agree. In a U8 to U10 game you usually do not have AR's to help you make a decision or give you a better angle. Therefore you many times can not evaluate wether a last defender fouled an attacking plyaer purposely, even though all 4 DOGSO were met. I think that if a last defender does not trust his coordination to not foul that attacking player then he should instead not challenge him. This can easily be coached and it serves a higher purpose. How is it better to give defenders the notion of "it's ok, you didnt know what you were doing" than to protect the "skilled" attackign player that beat those defenders with skill and determination??

  3. Ref Evaluator, December 19, 2014 at 10:19 a.m.

    George, an obvious scoring opportunity can be a 50/50 ball played into space. Just as it was unclear wether the forward would get to it first, it was also unclear wether the goalie would save. Last man foul on goal however unclear is straight red. Frankly, we need more cards in the MLS. Lets protect the little skill we have in the MLS. Makes ofr a better game. giving clumsy defenders benefit of doubt in this case hurts the quality of the game.

  4. Victor Mathseon, December 19, 2014 at 11:14 a.m.

    Ref Evaluator, while respect your opinion on this, my 25 years as a referee including 11 as a USSF National Referee leads me to an opinion much closer to Randy's.

    The purpose of a referee at higher levels is enforce the rules and punish lawbreakers. At roughly U-10 and below, the purpose of referees is almost entirely educational. Almost nothing is truly intentional at U-10 and certainly not at U-8, and no point is served by kicking out a player for DOGSO. It is not educational. It is simply cruelty to little kids.

    How to deal with a U-8 player who handles the ball going into the net? Call the foul and tell the player they need to be careful because once they start playing at the "higher levels" the referees will have to give them red cards for that.

    The same thing often applies to bad throws at that level. Call the bad throws, tell the kids why the throw was bad, and then have them take the throw over. It is clearly violation of the LOTG to give "rethrows" and Dempsey and Donovan don't deserve them, but it does a much better service to the game for the little kids.

    At some point you need to start enforcing the entire law book, and it depends on both age and skill level, but a referee who sends off a U-8 player for DOGSO needs to think about what it means to be a referee at that level. (And a referee evaluator who doesn't understand that might wish to think about the spirit of the game more carefully as well.)

  5. Kent James, December 19, 2014 at 11:47 a.m.

    Ref evaluator, I'm guessing you know where I stand on this one. Randy and Victor have it right. Good referees apply the rules within a larger context. But good referees are also not afraid to give cards when they are deserved, so putting things in context does not mean a hesitancy to give cards; sometimes it means bringing a card out quickly, in order to set the proper tone. So please do not confuse the idea of a flexible interpretation of the LOTG with laxity in officiating. You are right that officiating needs to be good to prevent less skillful players from evening the playing field by illegal means, I just think your advocacy of strict use of cards at the youngest ages is misplaced. But I'm with you at the older ages. A reluctance to give cards at the older ages is not uncommon, and often creates problems.

  6. Kent James, December 19, 2014 at 11:50 a.m.

    George, I don't remember the play you cite, but from the sound of it, if Larentowicz could have gotten to it, the red card is appropriate (at the professional level, it would be safe to assume a player getting to the ball with only the keeper to beat would be a goal scoring opportunity), but if the keeper was clearly going to get it even if there was no foul, no red card. If it's unclear, I'd fall back on the nature of the foul (a cynical, 'I know I can't stop this legally so I will illegally' foul would be an ejection, whereas what you described, with legs getting tangled, I'd probably not eject the defender if the keeper had a chance to get the ball). Given that you can't be right all the time, is it better to eject a player who does not deserve it, or not eject a player who does? I think you really need to be sure to eject a player, so if there's doubt, would not eject.

  7. R2 Dad, December 19, 2014 at 12:07 p.m.

    Thanks for the clarification, Randy. I've never dealt with handling within that context so thanks for the review. I will say that top players are getting more skilled, more cheeky, more devious at younger and younger ages, egged on by the parents and coaches in attendance. I used to limit myself to BU16 because the 17-18 year-olds had so much attitude it took all the fun out of it for me. Now I find those same bad attitudes at BU14. Every ball that hits an arm is Handling-squeal squeal squeal. All contact in the box is a PK-moan b!tch moan. And there is flopping anywhere near the penalty area. I can see why referees wouldn't want to pull a red for DOGSO--it creates a complete whingefest for them. But if they can't do it in league play they will never manage to correctly apply it at a tournament where the stakes are much higher. That said, statistically DOGSO rarely comes up.

  8. uffe gustafsson, December 19, 2014 at 9:42 p.m.

    Yes thank you for all that info very helpful.
    I will save that article for future reference.

  9. Ref Evaluator, December 19, 2014 at 10:51 p.m.

    Victor, so U11 is where you start to ref with full DOGSO?? Would you blame other refs to start at U12? How about U13?? Wouldnt it depend on level of play of that region?? Or how about division level?? You see, the problem with your theory is that it is up to any ref to evaluate when and where they wil apply full DOGSO. That makes up for bad reffing across the board and an excuse for bad reffing. A PK is extremely hard for refs to call and giving them ammuntition to not call it is dumb. Pardon my French. No other word for it. I see the same application of the law at U8 and U14 top level in Illinois. Doesnt change much. Thats because most refs do this as a side job. They dont want to think about how they will ref differently in a game of top U14's. Too tired and money isnt good enough to do the research. I am sorry but I have traveled to the best tournements of all ages including USSDA showcase a few weeks ago and reffing was bad but very consistent. I now see why if all you guys are refs.

  10. Steven Hulland, December 21, 2014 at 12:45 a.m.

    Having read many of the Ref Evaluators comments to many different articles. We can only hope you do not referee any of our U10/U11 and under games. You are there at the younger ages to educate and clearly you do not demonstrate this ability. Victor and Randy have it "dead-on" on. You on the other hand, will continue to carry your "laws" book around and apply it from U6-U21 the exact same way EVERY TIME. You are not doing the "youngers" any good on the pitch with this approach. So many referees have attempted to educate you on this approach that most see your comments and give up. You really are "that guy"! The referee that those red and yellow cards around to children that have absolutely no idea what they did or even the consequences of their actions. You probably think your "red or yellow" cards educates the younger players? Get with the program and learn how to teach the younger children the game or stay at the U12 and above where you consistency is wanted as well as needed. In addition, try a user name that does not have your title in it. It really is a form of insecurity or at the minimum...hiding. Randy and Victor are gentleman as well as educators and do not deserve to be "blasted" by someone that can not even stand by their own name. Kent, I am sorry but this has gone on too long. I think someone needs to contact "Ref Evaluators" actual evaluator for some on-to-one training on refereeing "youngers". Ref Evaluator misses the point entirely, it is GREAT refereeing when the referee can apply common sense and has an understanding of how the U10/11 and under mind works. Some "coaching" classes may help and the USSF offers some excellent insight at the very lowest levels, education on how those young minds really work. Excellent article Randy, thank you.

  11. Steven Hulland, December 21, 2014 at 12:47 a.m.

    Having read many of the Ref Evaluators comments to many different articles. We can only hope you do not referee any of our U10/U11 and under games. You are there at the younger ages to educate and clearly you do not demonstrate this ability. Victor and Randy have it "dead-on" on. You on the other hand, will continue to carry your "laws" book around and apply it from U6-U21 the exact same way EVERY TIME. You are not doing the "youngers" any good on the pitch with this approach. So many referees have attempted to educate you on this approach that most see your comments and give up. You really are "that guy"! The referee that throws red and yellow cards around to children that have absolutely no idea what they did or even the consequences of their actions. You probably think your "red or yellow" cards educates the younger players? Get with the program and learn how to teach the younger children the game or stay at the U12 and above where you consistency is wanted as well as needed. In addition, try a user name that does not have your title in it. It really is a form of insecurity or at the minimum...hiding. Randy and Victor are gentleman as well as educators and do not deserve to be "blasted" by someone that can not even stand by their own name. Kent, I am sorry but this has gone on too long. I think someone needs to contact "Ref Evaluators" actual evaluator for some on-to-one training on refereeing "youngers". Ref Evaluator misses the point entirely, it is GREAT refereeing when the referee can apply common sense and has an understanding of how the U10/11 and under mind works. Some "coaching" classes may help and the USSF offers some excellent insight at the very lowest levels, education on how those young minds really work. Excellent article Randy, thank you.

  12. Kent James, December 21, 2014 at 11:12 a.m.

    Steven, fair enough. You can't say I didn't try...

  13. Hank Pernicka, February 22, 2015 at 10:52 a.m.

    Overall, I agree with Ref Evaluator. While it's fine for refs to educate younger players (instead of carding them), context is the key: this should be limited to rec and lower level play. Players/parents/coaches spend much time and money to travel and play competitive soccer, even at the U8 level (which of course the wisdom of which is debatable, but I leave that for another day...). In competitive soccer, it is THE COACHES' JOB to educate their players, NOT the refs'. Do not punish the more skilled team by not enforcing the (very clear) rules as Ref Evaluator points out. When the team I coach misses out on a fast restart that is delayed by an opponent jumping right in front of the ball, and that opponent is not immediately yellow carded as s/he should be, it unfairly punishes my team. This is poor refereeing. The opposing coach should "educate" their players that they might be carded when they break the rules, intentionally or not! When little Johnny/Suzie comes off the field crying because they were carded and now their feelings are hurt, blame the coach - not the ref.

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