In this week’s Play of the Week we are again discussing one of the three Offside offenses namely, “Interfering with an Opponent”.
Firstly, let’s examine what the Law says specifically about interfering with an opponent:
A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is only penalized on becoming involved in active play by:
Interfering with an opponent by:
- preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision
- challenging an opponent for the ball
- clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent or
- making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball
The play in question this week is from the game between Montreal Impact and Atlanta United. The aspect of Law which is the discussion point is the final bullet point “making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball”. As United are launching an attacking move and Miguel Almiron plays a through ball, we can see that Josef Martinez is in an offside position. He leaves the ball for his team-mate Hector Villalba who is in an onside position. Impact defenders, Jukka Raitala and Rod Fanni can both see that Martinez is in an offside position and start to slow down, Raitala even raises his arm to appeal for the offside. When they realize that the assistant referee, TJ Zablocki is not going to raise his flag they hastily try and defend the play but cannot catch up with Villalba. He was onside and he crosses the ball to Martinez who in this second phase is now onside and he heads home to score the opening goal of the game.
I can recall not too long ago when this goal would have caused major controversy and no doubt there will still be some who advocate that this goal was illegal and should have been disallowed for offside. They will argue that Martinez being in an offside position clearly impacted on the ability of the two defenders to play the ball. But in reality this was down to bad defending, players should always play to the whistle! So let’s answer the criteria in Law 12 affecting this play:
- Interfering with an opponent by:
- preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision? NO
- challenging an opponent for the ball? NO
- clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent? NO
- making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of an opponent to play the ball. NO – THERE WAS NO OBVIOUS ACTION BY MARTINEZ AND THE IMPACT ON THE DEFENDERS WAS CAUSED BY THEM WRONGLY EXPECTING AN OFFSIDE DECISION.
This highlights the importance of ARs using the “Wait and See” technique by not raising the flag until the offside player becomes active. In this play AR TJ Zablocki shows composure by waiting to see who plays the ball and when he can see it was Villalba and not Martinez he correctly shows restraint and keeps his flag down. The very fact that the goal did not create much controversy or argument from the Montreal players means that the offside law is thankfully being more understood by the participants which is good news all round!