I am a coach of 12 years and encountered a situation during a game last season and would like your input as to the correct call for the situation.
Here is the setup; the attacker is heading towards goal followed closely by a defender, the only player between the attacker and goal is the keeper, the attacker has entered the area and is about the 15 when the defender reaches forward and gives a slight tug (hold or grab) on the left shoulder of the attacker trying to slow down the attacker’s progress, the attacker feels the hold and lunges forward through the air as if he were pushed.
Would you send off the defender for a deliberate hold in the area that denies an obvious scoring opportunity and award a pk, or would you caution the attacker for unsportsmanlike behavior, or both, or neither?
If both, what would the restart be?
USSF answer (February 20, 2009):
There are various possibilities for punishment, depending on the referee’s perception of the situation.
Was the attacking player simulating? If so, the referee needs to decide exactly WHAT was being simulated. Was it the foul itself, or was the attacker fouled but the simulation was an attempt to get the referee to add misconduct to the punishment (i. e., a card)?
If it was the foul itself that was being simulated, then the attacker needs to be cautioned for this and the opposing team given an indirect free kick where the simulation occurred.
If the defender committed a foul (holding or pushing) and the simulation was an attempt to get the referee to show a yellow or red card, then the attacker must certainly be cautioned for this but we are still left with the fact that the attacker was fouled inside the opposing team’s penalty area by a defender — which means a penalty kick restart.
In this case, the only question remaining is whether the defender’s foul also involved misconduct and thus the defender must be shown a card as well. What are the only possibilities for carding the defender based on the foul? The referee might decide that the foul itself was reckless (yellow card) or involved excessive force (red card), but the referee must be careful not to be influenced by the attacker’s simulation. The other possibility is that the referee might decide that the foul interfered with an obvious goal-scoring opportunity (OGSO). Assuming all the “4 D” elements were met, the referee must take into account whether the interference was actually caused by the defender’s foul or whether the attacker contributed to the interference by the simulation. In other words, if the “falling down” hadn’t occurred when the attacker simulated, would the attacker’s OGSO have been interfered with by the original foul?
Only the referee “on the spot” can make these determinations.