School of Rules: Clarifying offsides

• The four Ds

The match on Sept. 24 between the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas provided an excellent example of the proper implementation of the current guidelines regarding offside.

In the 68th minute, with the score 1-0 in favor of FC Dallas, a series of three plays by San Jose began which resulted in the tying goal ( View the play: 56K|384K).

San Jose's Ricardo Clark (No. 13) passed the ball from a point just above the Dallas penalty area. At that moment, the Earthquakes' Wade Barrett (No. 24) was clearly in an offside position on the left side of the penalty area, while San Jose's Brian Mullan (No. 9) was in an onside position on the right side. The ball was played forward and deflected by FC Dallas defender Steve Jolley.

Both Barrett and Mullan began moving to the ball, but it was obvious both from their respective distances to the ball and from the path of the ball itself that despite the effort by Barrett, Mullan would clearly arrive at the ball first from his onside position. There was accordingly no offside offense by Barrett.

Subsequently, Mullan played the ball across the face of the goal and it was put into the net by San Jose's Brian Ching (No. 25), who was behind the ball when it was played by Mullan. Again, there was no offside offense because Ching was onside when Mullan passed the ball laterally.

The referee and lead assistant referee were both in position to judge not only the contact by the Dallas defender but also the relative positions of Barrett and Mullan and to determine accurately that Barrett could neither interfere with the play nor with an opponent. As confirmed by these clips ( View the replay: 56K|384K), both officials correctly interpreted the facts of play as well as the requirements of Law 11 and are commended for their decisions.

Alfred Kleinaitis is the Manager of Referee Development and Education for U.S. Soccer, the governing body for soccer in the United States, which administers, certifies and assigns all referees and assistant referees for MLS.


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