This is probably the worst foul I’ve seen at the high school level in years:
It is also a horrendous example of refereeing as there was no red card issued. Here is a local news report with some relevant details before we look at the refereeing failures.
Trojans’ 4-1 girls’ soccer loss at Pinecrest on Thursday….Ernie Fisher, regional supervisor for soccer officials in the Cape Fear region, said that the officials calling the game originally did not assess Sturtz a penalty. However, Fisher said the officials conferred shortly after the game ended and agreed Sturtz should have been called for a flagrant contact foul….The loss was Pine Forest’s first of the season, leaving the Trojans with a 10-1-1 record. They are still alone atop the Mid-South 4-A Conference standings with a 6-0 record.
Let’s start looking at the context of the game right before the foul. The fouling keeper is losing 4-1 in a non-conference game. The losing team looks like it has a good record so if they are losing 4-1 they are in an unusual position of being dominated.
If the North Carolina system is anything like my region, this game probably does not have the #1 crew on it, but it probably has a decent crew for a non-conference game between two good teams.
There are several points of refereeing failure on this sequence. The referee could have prevented or at least dramatically lowered the probability of a serious injury to the attacker and the eventual ejection of the keeper but he failed.
There are seconds left in the game and a big through ball is sent. There is one attacker breaking through the back line. At this point there are four things that can happen.
- The ball has too much pace and either goes out of touch or goes back to the keeper.
- The attacker misplays the ball and allows the defense to recover back on her
- The attacker is offside when she receives the ball
- The attacker is 1 on 1 versus the keeper and things get exciting
#1 and #2 are easy outcomes. No referee intervention is needed.
In this case, the assistant referee on the bottom of the screen raises his flag to indicate an offside violation. At this point the referee should be aware that offside or 1v1 are the two most probable outcomes. His head should be on a swivel and checking the assistant referee every other step as he sprints forward. As soon as he sees the flag go up, the whistle should be blown as there is no chance for another defender to come back and get involved in the play nor for an onside attacker to make a clear run on the ball. If the whistle is blown before the attacker touches the ball, she’ll slow down and break off. Even if the keeper continues to launch herself into the attacker, the net speed is far lower and thus the collision is slightly less dangerous. There are twenty yards and almost two seconds to prevent the collision.
Looking at the film, I think the attacker is onside the entire time, but that could be a matter of the angle. I won’t question an offside call from a time zone away. The center has to trust his assistant referee when he goes up with an offside. Getting the offside right prevents the injury and ejection.
Once the offside decision is botched, it is attacker versus keeper.
Here the referee royally screws the pooch.
Once it is 1 v 1, the idea of a Denying an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity (DOGSO) has to be on the referee’s mind. Minor fouls given the situation can be red card worthy if the attacker is prevented from taking a great shot on goal. The keeper launching herself into the attacker is not a minor foul. It is violent, vicious and it has no tactical reason. No one plays soccer in mid-air while flying forward. There is no need for a flying form tackle. The only point of that action is to harm the attacker for either frustration or intimidation purposes.
Once the assault has commenced, the referee has to go red. He has some flexibility as to how he writes it up. The best write-up is Violent Conduct, a justifiable write-up is DOGSO, an understandable but wrong write-up is Serious Foul Play. But that is irrelevant. He needs to have a red card out within the first three strides towards the keeper for game control.
The red card is needed to avert any potential brawls. The refs lucked out, there was no brawl and no immediate retaliation. If it was a men’s game, I would be shocked if there was no one in the face of the keeper at the very least. The referee hauling ass with a red card visibly in his hand asserts control and tells pissed off players that justice will be done and the referee recognizes the severity of the situation.
Furthermore, the referee went straight to the keeper. There is a player on the ground in obvious distress. Even a quick run by to make sure she is conscious and then summon on help for the attacker before heading to the keeper minimizes problems.
This should be an automatic red. Even if the referee missed it (How????), his assistants should have seen something. If I was in the middle, I want at least one of the assistant referees to scream, wave their flag, shoot flares into the air, and otherwise making a massive scene to convey the game critical information that the keep needs to go NOW as a 100% red. The visible assistant referee trotted to the middle.
I am almost certain that I’ll see this clip at least three or four times over the next year at various clinics and training sessions.