I’m frequently doing high level U15-U16 boys and girls games where the following scenario occurs. Very fast attacking winger speeding up sideline with ball, slightly faster single defender on his (her) inside shoulder. Because of high speed there is a good 2-3-4 yard gap between attacker and the ball that fast defender is finally able to get into and touch ball first, getting in between attacker and the ball without more than legal shoulder contact. Defender then wants to control, shield and play ball, but because of momentum of all involved attacker goes into back of defender and all go flying. It is my judgment that defender has won ball possession and been fouled by attacker, but that call frequently gets belligerent dissent from attacker’s coaching staff and parent sidelines. I would call a foul (impeding) the other way against defender if defender jumped in front of attacker or ran into that space so recklessly that attacker could not possibly avoid contact.

What exactly are criteria for foul in such a case; must defender actually touch ball to be considered winning possession, or is playing distance enough if defender in better position?

USSF answer (November 5, 2008):
What you describe is perfectly legal. You might consider looking closely at what the winger (former attacker) does after the opponent (former defender) has taken possession of the ball. In this case, possession means simply that the player is within playing distance — see answer of November 4 on impeding the progress of the opponent. If the winger charges from behind to get the ball, then that is at least careless and, depending on what else happens, possibly reckless or worse.

We rarely take into consideration the reactions of the coaching staffs of either team. Their main purpose in life — or at least in this game — is to ensure that their team comes out on top. Anything that helps in this pursuit will be attempted. As long as you are confident that your decision was correct, let the shouts roll off your back. We should hear only what we need to hear, not everything that is said on or off the field.

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