Flushing, Queens is home to U.S. Open tennis and Citi Field, where the New York Mets play. It also has a huge Asian-American population. So when a junior college coach asked me to meet him at a restaurant in Flushing over a year ago, I checked to make sure that his team was not on my schedule (it was not) before I accepted and chose a Vietnamese restaurant with good reviews.
I explained what was then a new interpretation of the offside rule, the attacker playing the ball, then the defender simply misplaying the ball and the ball going to another attacker, who was in an offside position when the ball was originally played by the attacker. Considered offside in the past, now considered onside.
Upon the conclusion of our meal, he said to me, “Geez, I’m going to win and lose a lot of games based on this interpretation.” Actually, not as many as he thought as a very small percentage of goals, like 1% or 2%, are scored after a defender misplays the ball, at least in the games I have officiated during this time.
Gaining an advantage is by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar or an opponent or been deliberately saved by an opponent. A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save), is not considered to have gained an advantage.
Therefore, the officials must decide whether the defender deliberately played the ball or whether it deflected or rebounded from him or her. Factors to consider in making this determination include whether the defender moved a body part toward the ball, the distance of the defender from the ball when it was played and whether the ball is expected by the defender. Yet the attacker in an offside position (when the ball was originally played) receiving the ball from a goalkeeper or a defender from a deliberate save is still offside.
Let’s take these scenarios that occurred in my games:
• In a game that I was refereeing without ARs, the ball after a corner kick is played to the corner of the penalty area (where the 18-yard line meets the 18-yard line). With three attackers in offside positions in the goal area but not interfering with any opposing players, an attacker plays the ball on the ground toward the front of the goal. The second-to-last defender, 15 yards from the ball when it was originally played, miskicks the ball and it goes to an attacker behind him who scores. The defenders appealed for offside and were shocked that call was not coming.
• An attacker dribbling up the touchline crosses the ball toward another attacker, in an offside position 30 yards away. Between those players was a defender who stuck out his foot. The ball rebounded off his foot to the other attacker. The AR raised his flag but I overruled him as that attacker scored. Yes, I heard it from the opposing coach but I explained that offside could not be called as the defender deliberately played the ball.
• At the time the keeper punts the ball, the only players in the other half of the field are the opposing keeper and an attacker, who is in an offside position five yards into the other half. The punted ball drops to a defender on the halfway line, who miskicks the ball backward into the path of that attacker who is now running on to the ball. The AR correctly keeps his flag down as the attacker goes to goal on a breakaway and the keeper winds up making the save.
• A through-pass is made 10 yards from the attacker in an offside position with a defender close nearby. That defender jumps to head the ball and the ball glances off her head to the attacker. The AR correctly leaves his flag down as the defender had deliberately played the ball. Another defender tracks back and tackles the ball away.
• An attacker plays the ball and it hits off the defender’s stomach two yards away and goes to another attacker who was is in offside position when the ball was originally played. Offside is whistled as the ball had deflected off the defender.
• A shot is taken and the keeper parries the ball to an attacker who was in an offside position when the ball was originally played. That attacker scores but the goal is disallowed as the attacker received the ball from a deliberate save.
• There is a goalmouth scramble and the ball goes out to an attacker 10 yards from goal. The keeper comes out of his goal to cut down the angle. Behind the keeper are two players, one an attacker and one a defender. The attacker is in an offside position as he’s behind the keeper so that attacker needed another defender, even with him or closer to the goal line, to keep him onside. A shot on goal is taken and it beats the keeper but it does not beat the defender, who sticks out a leg. The ball rebounds to the attacker who was in an offside position when the ball was played. The attacker scores. The goal is disallowed, even though the defender deliberately played the ball, as the defender had made a deliberate save.
(Randy Vogt has officiated over 9,000 games during the past three decades, from professional matches in front of thousands to six-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 PreventiveOfficiating.com.)