Nat Borchers - Ref Week
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Make the Call: RSL's Borchers sees red vs. Chivas USA

As part of's Referee Week, we asked four-time MLS Referee of the Year Paul Tamberino, who currently serves as a director in the league's Competition Department, to review some controversial plays from throughout this season.

Our second clip is from August, when Real Salt Lake's Nat Borchers was sent off against Chivas USA.

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There are seven instances where a player can be sent off. This particular situation falls under the category of “denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity,” which is covered by Law 12 in the Laws of the Game.

Referees are guided by certain criteria in determining DOGSO. They are characterized by the four “Ds”:

  • Direction of play: Is the player who is fouled moving toward the goal?
  • Distance to goal: Is the player in close proximity to the goal where he has the opportunity to score?
  • Distance to ball: What is the likelihood of the attacker keeping or gaining control?
  • Defenders: Are there other defenders who can make a play on the attacker?

In this particular case, Chivas USA's Nick LaBrocca is the seeming beneficiary of a bad touch in the back from RSL defender Nat Borchers. LaBrocca assumes control of the ball, runs in front of Borchers and moves toward goal, at which point Borchers reaches out and tugs on LaBrocca's left shoulder. LaBrocca spins and falls.

It is clearly a foul, and referee Kevin Stott correctly blows the whistle for a freekick.

Next, Stott must decide if Borchers' actions warrant a red card by denying LaBrocca an obvious goal-scoring opportunity. Stott must, in a few seconds, ask and answer the four Ds.

The first three are easy: 1) Yes, LaBrocca is fouled while moving toward the goal; 2) yes, he is in close proximity to the goal (about 20 yards out); and 3) it is very likely he would keep control.

The fourth D, the one regarding other defenders in the area, is less obvious, as there is an RSL defender, Tony Beltran, tracking back to the right of the play. After the whistle, many of the RSL players seem to indicate that Beltran was in a position to make a play on LaBrocca. Was he? The answer to that question ultimately determines Borchers' fate. 

Conclusion: At the moment the foul takes place, Beltran is 10 yards to the right of LaBrocca. This is clearly too much distance for Beltran to make up before LaBrocca would get his shot off. Therefore, Borchers' foul on LaBrocca denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, and Stott is correct in sending him off.

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