In this week’s POTW we are discussing a play in which the referee initially gives a yellow card for simulation. This is the player’s 2nd caution and he is consequently sent off, but after a review initiated by the VAR, the referee decides to overturn the decision and award a penalty kick. We examine why the referee made the wrong call in the first place and as usual positioning plays a part. We will also look at the circumstances behind the player’s first caution to see if it could have been avoided by improved Player Management. So, this week we cover a lot of different subjects that hopefully we can learn from.

The play is from the game between Orlando City SC and Portland Timbers. As early as the 8th minute Orlando US International, Sacha Kljestan is preparing to take a corner kick but opponent, Sebastian Blanco is not 9.15 metres (10 yards) from the ball. Referee Baldomero Toledo moves towards Blanco in an attempt to ensure that he complies with law and goes back the required distance. However, when he goes over Toledo does not appear to make his requirements clear to Blanco and just has a quiet word to him. Without showing Blanco where he should stand Toledo backs away as if to accept his position, then goes back and brandishes a yellow card to him, before only at this point showing him where to stand. This caution could have been avoided by firmer management. If Toledo had made his intentions clearer by showing Blanco exactly where he should stand, by pointing to the spot and/or using the vanishing spray, I am sure that Blanco would have complied. If he didn’t, he certainly could not have any cause for complaint, plus no-one would have been surprised.

Then in the 13th minute, with play near the side of the penalty area, Toledo moves into a good position to be able to see any incident that could occur on the extremity of the area to see. If so he would be well positioned to judge if occurred inside or outside. This is good practice, however, when play moves inside he does not move accordingly, so when the incident occurs he is looking through other players and does not have a clear view. Therefore he does see the entire incident and does not have all the information he needs to make the correct decision. If the referee could recognise the distance from the player to the ball, and the manner in which the player throws himself forward but does not see the contact, this will look like simulation.

When Toledo looks at the angles on the screen in the RRA (Referee Review Area) he can see that a careless foul tackle offence was committed on Blanco and a penalty kick should have been awarded, as opposed to a caution for simulation. He therefore overturns his decision. This is exactly what VAR was brought in for : missed or incorrect incidents in game changing situations.

If you look at the referee’s starting position, he has time to move into a better position which would be to his right and further back away from the penalty area.

This is where referees have to remain alert to the changing patterns of play, giving themselves the best possible opportunity to make the correct decision. If this had been the case on this occasion he would have seen the whole incident and had a far better chance of making the correct decision.

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