Blue and Red player have been challenging pretty hard during the game….all fair, a little tugging on the jerseys in close. Referee has made a verbal to them both during play…ie hands down, etc. Nothing real major.

Second half, blue is a little upset as red starts to tug on the jersey a little excessive from behind. Referee is about to whistle for red holding, but blue player, before the referee can blow the whistle…sticks his arm out and with a backwards motion strikes the red player in anger for retaliation against the hold. Neither has had a foul called on them in the match.

My question is since the intent of the referee was to call a holding foul on red, and just the delay to bring the whistle to the mouth does not negate that…..the initial foul would be holding on red. Then the follow up misconduct would be the strike by blue as in this case it happened after the referee intended to stop play, so it can’t be a foul. Restart with DFK blue as it was the natural restart Or Just call the foul on both and as both are penal and one is not greater than the other, drop ball (hate having to do that)

Now, with that said What if the same scenario, but the strike was reckless but occurred as retaliation for the hold. Although you verbally admonish the hold, you enforce the strike as it was more severe, show the yellow, and DFK Red for the blue reckless strike.

USSF answer (August 18, 2011):
Once the referee has determined that a non-trifling foul has been committed and the referee is about to blow the whistle to stop further action, play has already stopped as far as the restart goes. Any infringements that follow the foul to be called are thus treated as misconduct. Only the referee knows how it went down, at least until he or she writes the match report, so there is no need for explanation of the decision to anyone but the competition authorities and the assessor, if there is one (and only if he or she asks).

Given the situation as you present it, the referee should stop play as quickly as possible and get to the spot of the incidents. Deal with each of the two fouls and/or acts of misconduct as the Law prescribes. If the holding foul by Red was NOT blatant, award the direct free kick to Blue and do not caution the Red player. If the holding foul WAS blatant, caution the Red player. If the Blue player’s act of striking was not done with excessive force, it must, by definition, have been done recklessly, and thus the Blue player must be cautioned for unsporting behavior. If the striking was done with excessive force, the Blue player must be sent off for violent conduct, not for serious foul play (because the ball was already out of play based on the referee’s decision to stop for the original holding foul by Red), as the two players were then not contesting for the ball (a requirement for SFP).