Yesterday’s MLS match up between NE & KC saw referee Terry Vaughn award KC a penalty kick in the 27th minute. KC’s player was clearly fouled inside the penalty area by a late challenge from NE’s defender. However, the ball made its way to a KC player right in front of the net who had a good scoring opportunity. You can see that Vaughn blew his whistle before the KC player was able to get his shot off on goal. Fortunately for Vaughn the ball went off the goal post and no goal was scored. Even if a goal had been scored, it would have not counted b/c Vaughn had stopped play before the shot.

Here’s my question. Did Vaughn do the right thing? Should Vaughn have called for advantage and allowed the KC player to take the shot on goal? Now, if the player is allowed to take the shot and the same result occurs, the ball goes off the post (no goal), can you then go back to the foul inside the box and award a penalty kick? Or is it simply one or the other?

I know that with the advantage you have a few seconds to see if the play will develop so as to become an advantage if the foul is not called. On the first goal of the game, Vaughn did just that. A foul was committed, he waited a few seconds to see if NE would gain an advantage from no foul being called, the play never developed, so he awarded the foul and NE scored on the free kick. But here, it appears the advantage did develop by the KC forward receiving the ball at his feet right in front of the goal. If advantage is given and the shot is taken, I would think, even if the shot is missed, the foul cannot then be called as if the advantage did not develop, but I’m really not sure. I realize Vaughn did not do this, that he called the foul before the shot was taken, but I’m just speculating what is the right thing to do in these types of situations.

USSF answer (April 16, 2008):
The game at the professional level is usually played and refereed at a much faster pace than our typical games at the school or neighborhood park. Critical refereeing decisions must be made in an instant, with little time to reflect on what might have been. That is one reason that we see the advantage signaled in professional games only after it has already been realized. Sometimes the referee gets it exactly right and sometime he or she does not. The important thing is that the referee at the top levels knows he or she has to make that decision, and does so, rather than dithering.

This position paper issued by USSF on April 11, 2008, may be of interest to you:

From the U.S. Soccer Communications Center:

To: National Referees
National Instructors
National Assessors
State Referee Administrators
State Directors of Instruction
State Directors of Assessment
State Directors of Coaching
From:  Alfred Kleinaitis
Manager of Referee Development and Education
Subject:  Advantage in the Penalty Area
Date:  April 11, 2008

Special circumstances govern the application of advantage for offenses committed by defenders inside their own penalty area. Although the basic concept of advantage remains the same, the specific decision by the referee must be governed by both the close proximity to the goal and the likelihood of scoring from the penalty kick restart if play is stopped instead of applying advantage.

The basic elements of the decision are straightforward:

Advantage is a team concept and thus the referee must be aware not only of the fouled player’s ability to continue his or her attack but also of the ability of any of the player’s teammates to continue the attack themselves.
Advantage has been applied when the decision is made, not when the advantage signal is given. The signal itself may often be delayed for 2-3 seconds while the referee evaluates the advantage situation to determine if it will continue.
Where it does not continue, the Laws of the Game provide for the referee to stop play for the original foul.
If the original foul involved violence, the referee is advised not to apply advantage unless there is an immediate chance of scoring a goal.
Inside the penalty area, the competitive tension is much greater and the referee is called upon to make quicker decisions. The time during which the referee looks for advantage to continue becomes defined by the probability of scoring a goal directly following the foul or from the subsequent play.

In the attached clip of an incident occurring in the 27th minute of a match on April 9 between New England and Kansas City. NE defender #31 (Nyassi) fouls KC attacker #11 (Morsink) near the top of the penalty area. Just as Morsink is fouled, however, he passes the ball to his teammate #19 (Sealy).

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.

In the absence of a whistle stopping play and if the ball had entered the net, the advantage would clearly have continued and the goal would be counted.
If, in this case, the ball had entered the goal after the whistle had sounded, the goal could not be counted.
Ideally, the referee in this incident should have delayed stopping play for the original foul until he saw more concretely what Sealy would have been able to do with the ball.
In this incident, the penalty kick for the original foul was successful.

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