Question for you on a discussion I am having with another referee on the advantage in the PA memo (4/11/08).

He claims that the memo implies that, in saying that the referee should wait 2-3 seconds to determine if advantage develops, should a DFK foul by the defense in its own PA occur, and in that 2-3 second interval the attacking gets a clean, uncontested shot on goal but misses the goal, the referee is entitled to go back to the original foul and award a penalty kick.

Using the video clip that accompanies the memo, the first blue player (Morsnik) is clearly the victim of a DFK foul after he passes the ball to Sealy. Sealy then cleanly plays the ball into a space where he gets a left-footed toe poke off on goal that hits the post.

The memo says the referee should have waited to see “what Sealy would have been able to do with the ball.” Which is the crux of the disagreement. I read that as saying that advantage should have been applied, and Sealy’s opportunity to score was of enough quality that a PK did not need to be called.

Furthermore, the paragraph before says:

“The referee properly recognized the advantage but then whistled for the foul against Morsink after he decided that a goal would not be scored by Sealy. In fact, Sealy made a shot on goal just as the whistle sounded and the ball failed to enter the net.”

The wording here, to me, implies that advantage was recognized but then the foul was given before letting the play develop. My colleague believes that USSF claims that the memo says that once it is realized that blue will not score (i.e., when the ball rebounds from the post), the referee can then give the foul instead of the advantage.

I think as long as the referee has not indicated to the players he has given advantage, he is within his right to go back and give the foul. However, if an attacker, though the advantage gets off a clean uncontested shot and misses of no fault other than his own, going back and giving the PK in that situation will likely have a very negative effect on game control (because you will put the defense in double jeopardy and given the attacking two terrific scoring chances).

What do you think?

USSF answer (September 8, 2009):
When an offense is committed by a defender inside the team’s own penalty area, the definition of Potential changes from “probability” and “dangerous attack” to a goal actually being scored by the fouled team immediately following the foul or at most within another play. The “within a play” is not a hard and fast rule, but a “rule of thumb” subject to the opinion of the referee. The objective is to reward the attackers for scoring a goal despite the offense and not benefiting the defenders by replacing a sure goal with the roughly 70% probability of scoring a goal from a penalty kick.

Particularly when the offense involves violence, it becomes more important to stop play (and award the PK) than to increase the danger of further violence occurring. Even within the penalty area, the distance can still be greater (18 yards or more depending on the direction of the attack) or lesser (e.g., within the goal area) – in the former case, you might allow more play to occur before stopping for a penalty kick if a goal is not scored.

In short, if a goal is not scored right away, give the penalty kick.

In no case, however, is the advantage signal to be given for an offense inside the penalty area. The time is too short for you to divert your attention from the critical decision to be made. You are still applying the advantage concept but the terms of the advantage decision change and having to give a signal could detract from the accurate application of that decision.

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