Offside – at a recent [college] match there was a difficult call made by the referee concerning an attacking player. Here is the scenario.

A lone attacking player is played a long ball from the back and at the time of the pass was onside. The pass was not accurate and the last defender tried to head the ball back down the field. The header ended up going backward to the attacker who had continued to run forward (now the attacker found herself between the last defender and the goalkeeper). The on-field call, after a goal was scored, was that the attacker was seeking to gain an advantage by being in the position they were in when they actually received the ball.

I’m not sure how the referee could have determined where the advantage was as the attacker could not have known the last defender would head the ball in her vicinity. This was not a deflection per se nor was the pass made by one of her team mates.

Can you clarify?

USSF answer (September 28, 2010):
We need to repeat and stress (for ALL readers) that we do not have any competence to answer questions on college or high school rules, so must address your question as if it had occurred in a game played under the Laws of the Game, the rules the entire world plays by.

If a player was in an onside position when the ball was last played by a teammate, then he or she cannot be declared offside if the ball is then deflected, miskicked, or otherwise misdirected by an opponent. Under the Laws of the Game, this referee would seem to have erred, at least in his description of his decision-making process. The word “seeking” was removed from Law 11 many years ago and the critical decision that has to be made in this scenario is whether the defender PLAYED (possessed and controlled) the ball — including situations in which the defender PLAYED the ball in what turned out to be an unfortunate direction — or whether the ball merely DEFLECTED from the defender (including situations in which the ball was misplayed). Whether the referee further erred in his basic decision we cannot say in the absence of a clip of the play.