I am currently a coach, parent, and member of our local soccer club board of directors. I have been around soccer most of my life. Our local youth premier league had their opening weekend recently, and I saw 4 occasions of what I would I thought was a strange call. This happened in U11 girls, U13 girls, U11 boys, and U12 boys.

The call as stated by the referee in all occasions was simply “last defender” One coach asked the referee what this meant, and was not answered beyond those words. The call incurred a yellow card in each case.

The first instance was in U11 boys. One of our defenders was playing catch up with a break away, and was just about to gain the goal side on the other player. The other player tried to take a quick shot, and kicked the turf and went tumbling. No contact happened, but I chalked it up to a center ref not leaving the center circle.

The second instance was in the U12 boys game. This time our player was making a run on the goal, and the opposing defender made a perfect tackle on the ball. Surprisingly there was no body contact, or slide involved. It was just a good solid tackle of the ball. The kind of defensive save that makes you cheer even when it prevented your team from scoring. The referee was at a very good vantage point to make this call.

The third was in U11 girls game. This time the defender was containing the girl nicely. Had per pressed to the outside, making a shot difficult at best. The girl took a sweeping kick, and the defender made her tackle on the ball at this time. The ball shoots out along the goal line.

The fourth instance was in the U13 girls game, and the offensive player came from the corner into the penalty area, and tried to make a move past the defender. Her move took her straight into the stationary defender, and she fell.

In all these case the ruling of the referee was “last defender”, and a yellow card was issued. It appears that in our league this year, it is illegal to be the last defender, but I was wondering if there were a better explanation for these calls.

USSF answer (September 1, 2010):
We see two possibilities here for the totally non-standard term “last defender.”

1.It could possibly have been the referee’s way of saying that the player who was cautioned had committed what used to be called a “professional foul,” usually committed as a last resort to stop a promising attack.

2. Or, rhis was a foul committed by a defender against an attacker under circumstances in which all the elements (the “4 Ds”) of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity have been met, in particular including the number of defenders where the referee has judged that there was only one or no defender between the location of the foul and the goal, not counting the defender who committed the offense. Of course, given this, the card should have been red, not yellow.

We are aware of no possibilities beyond these and can only say that some referees, just like some coaches, are very inventive.