If a defender in full possession of the ball, passes the ball deliberately backward (ie no glancing or rebound) with the intention of passing back to the goalkeeper, and in so doing passes to an opponent from the attacking team who would, if the pass had come from an attacking team mate, have been standing in an offside position at the time of the pass from the defender, with the clear intention of interfering with play (and indeed going onto score so actually interfering with play), is the attacking player in an offside position?
In a recent Champions League game (Manchester United v FC Porto April 7th), this was demonstrated when Wayne Rooney, who was standing clearly in an offside position between the last defender and the goalkeeper in anticipation of the pass back, took possession of the ball by virtue of the pass and went onto score. He was in my opinion, not only (a) standing in an offside position when the ball was played (b) interfering with play by taking possession of the ball (c) preventing an opponent from taking possession of the ball by intercepting the ball in an offside position.
All of the Rules and interpretations I have seen phrase the consideration of an offside offence in terms of passes accurately or erroneously made by the attacking team and falling inadvertently (by rebound or deflection) or deliberately to a team mate who may or may not be in an offside position. Or they deal with an opponent defending a set piece goal kick. They do not deal with a deliberate pass by a defender to an opposition player who may be in a conventional offside position at the time the ball is played.
Could you tell me what should be the correct interpretation of this situation? Is an attacking player never offside if a defender passes directly to the attacker who would otherwise be standing in an offside position, by virtue of the defender having passed (inadvertently one assumes) to him?
USSF answer (April 9, 2009):
In short, yes. But perhaps we should give you more information on the matter.
A player may stand in an offside position for the entire game and never be called offside if he or she is not involved in play. And that, in turn, requires that the ball last be played by a teammate. If the ball was last possessed and played by an opponent, as in your scenario, there can be no offside.
We are concerned about possession of the ball in such cases, not in accuracy of passes. If by accuracy you mean that the opposing defender took a wild swing at the ball and it glanced off him to the player in the offside position, that would not negate the call of offside, as the opposing player never had possession of the ball.