Nat Borchers - Ref Week
USA Today Sports

Referee Week: A deflection gone wrong for Real Salt Lake's Nat Borchers? You make the call!

As part of's Referee Week, we're asking you to jump into the game and make some calls yourself. Just like the guys on the field, you'll be asked to make the judgment in real time. No replay, no second looks, frame-by-frame breakdown – just one view and one split-second verdict.

For our final call, we're taking a look at Real Salt Lake's trip to Vancouver earlier this year. Nat Borchers found himself defending a delection in the box and, well, you make the call:

As always, we want your feedback in the comments section below. And we'll be back in a few hours to sort this one out.

The Verdict: Vancouver win a penalty

I keep going back and forth on this one myself. Clearly there's no intent by Borchers to play the ball with his arm, but just as clearly, he both handles it and gains advantage.

Here's the interpretation of Law 12, courtesy of


Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of a player making contact with the ball with his hand or arm. The referee must take the following into consideration:

  • the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
  • the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
  • the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an infringement
  • touching the ball with an object held in the hand (clothing, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement
  • hitting the ball with a thrown object (boot, shinguard, etc.) counts as an infringement

And here's some thoughts from Peter Walton, head of the Professional Referees Organization:


“It’s the only part of the law that suggests the act must be ‘deliberate.’ So when you look at a handball, you’ve got to factor in ‘Was it a deliberate act?’” Walton said. “How would I get rid of that?

“That’s a great question, and I wish I had the answer to it.”

I think the answer is "you don't." Real Salt Lake fans are going to see the above call as an egregiously wrong interpretation of Law 12. Whitecaps fans will feel that the spirit of the law was upheld.



Stay connected: Get access to breaking news, videos, and analysis from North America's best soccer reporters via "This Week in MLS" newsletter or using our FREE mobile app.