Saturday 5 January 2013

Major Law Screwup in an MLS Match

The following incident occurred during an MLS match between New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers on 19 August 2012. The match finished 3—2. There was 1 YC.

In the 45', just before halftime with the score 1—2, referee Jason Anno awards a controversial goal to NY Red Bulls (white) to level the score. Here are the freeze frames:

 Referee Jason Anno whistles here for handball, just as Tim Cahill shoots from the rebound

Portland players (green) question referee Anno's decision. But Anno is adamant that the goal stands.

The videoclips can also be seen from:

Highlights: NY v POR (about 04:00 in)

Cahill strikes home controversial equalizer

Even the commentators believed the goal would not stand because of the whistle being blown before the ball entered the goal. Here's how the MLS Match Center described the play:
The Red Bulls then equalized through Tim Cahill just before halftime on a controversial play. Dax McCarty hit a shot that deflected off of defender David Horst’s outstretched arms and center official Jason Anno blew his whistle and signaled for a penalty kick before changing his call after seeing Cahill bury the rebounded effort.

Some questions posed:

1) What are the reasons for referee Jason Anno to award the goal? He clearly knew he whistled for an infringement (i.e. handball), so what was going through his mind?

2) What should the AR and/or 4th Official have done?

3) What are the possible restarts?


  1. 4) What is his personal consequence? We had a very same situation here a few decades ago. Michael Malbranc did not allow an advantage, whistled free kick and then a goal was scored, he awarded it. He immediately stopped his refereeing career after this situation.

  2. Sadly, there is no excuse for reaching this level of officiating and making this basic error. Anno's professional career should end here.

  3. If he has just been slower to whistle, all the controversy goes away. He could have allowed 0.75 seconds of advantage on the handball and the goal would be scored.

    Because he did blow the whistle, the restart should have been a PK for the handball in the box.

  4. I am still pondering this one. Quite frankly, I wonder why the beef?

    The mistake was the whistle. The result is correct.

    Advantage should have been played and the goal should have been allowed, except for the whistle. In this case the whistle was both doubtful and trifling.

    1. When the whistle is blown the play is dead. The keeper and the rest of the defense relax. The referee cannot allow a subsequent goal.

  5. In the USA, the United States Soccer Federation (USSF) publishes a booklet entitled "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" (ATR). This booklet is designed to answer questions like these. The USSF strives to make the ATR booklet conform to the FIFA memos and positions and Q&A, but the ATR booklet only applies to matches played in the USA under the auspices of the USSF.

    Section 10.3 is STOPPING PLAY BEFORE A POSSIBLE GOAL and says, "If a referee whistles for an infringement of the Laws and then the ball wholly crosses the goal line, beneath the crossbar and between the goal posts, the goal is not valid. The game must be restarted in accordance with the nature of the infringement, keeping in mind the special circumstances outlined in Law 8."

    As it appears that the whistle was blown before the goal was scored, the goal can not stand. The correct restart (in my opinion) is a PK.

  6. the AR and 4th official can do nothing about it- they can obviously contact the referee through the hooked up mic system, but they are there to advise not to make decisions.

    Obviously the goal should not have stood- but referees are instructed to always watch out for these type of decisions, and blow the whistle whilst understanding that it is not necessary to blow absolutely immediately. Only where an incident of serious foul play or violent conduct should a referee blow immediately without considering advantage.