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Play of the Week 10: Fourth official preparation

May 10, 2017

By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer 

The most important duty of a fourth official is to take over on the field for one of his colleagues. This is not an easy task and, when it happens, the fourth official must be fully prepared to officiate, either as referee or assistant referee. 

In fact, it happened on two occasions over the weekend in MLS, and that is what we're discussing in Play of the Week 10 of the 2017 series.

Firstly, in the game between Colorado Rapids and Vancouver Whitecaps, in the 77th minute, referee Jorge Gonzalez had to leave the field injured and fourth official Younes Marrakchi took over as referee. 

During Marrakchi's time on the field:

- The game’s only goal was scored

- He played two great advantages 

- He issued a correct yellow card

- He issued a correct second yellow card – red card

The second yellow card incident sees Rapids' Mekeil Williams play a weak pass which he then tries to retrieve. Whitecaps' Nicolas Mezquida gets to the ball before him and Williams goes recklessly into the back of Mezquida's legs.

You can immediately see Vancouver head coach Carl Robinson, who is standing close by, put his head in his hands. He knows the seriousness of the offense and, no doubt, is worried about his player. 

Marrakchi is soon on the scene – as is now fourth official Gonzalez to support his colleague and handle any potential retaliation – and you see the referee has the yellow and red cards in his hands. 

He shows great composure and calmness while waiting for Williams to get to his feet before brandishing the red card. Williams, already resigned to his fate, starts to leave the field with absolute acceptance. 

In the second game, between D.C. United and Montreal Impact, AR Anthony Vasoli had to hand over his flag to fourth official Caleb Mendez at half-time due to injury. 

During his time on the field, Mendez had to: 

- Apply a correct no flag decision on a close offside appeal

- Assist the referee in signaling for a free-kick

- Flag for offside to correctly disallow a goal

As the ball is crossed into the penalty area by D.C.'s Sean Franklin, two of his teammates are in an offside position – Bobby Boswell and Kofi Opare – and there are others who are in an onside position. 

Mendez, who is perfectly in line, uses the wait and see technique to observe where the ball is going. As soon as Opare plays the ball, Mendez raises his flag for a perfectly-timed, correct decision and good use of prescribed procedure. 

The camera shows a close up of him immediately following the decision and I would love to know what was going through his mind at this point!

It is never easy for fourth officials to take over on the field in such situations. In both of these cases they have no experience at this level, but even for our more experienced colleagues to take over during a game at short notice, with no physical or mental preparation, is very difficult.

I think if you ask any fourth official if they would prefer to take over in the center or the line, they would undoubtedly go center as they are indeed referees and not assistants, and that is more in their comfort zone.

I have always advocated that referees should practice as an AR a few times a year, which can perhaps be done in preseason friendly games. When they act as fourth official, there is a two to one chance of them taking over as AR rather than referee, so it’s important that they are prepared accordingly. It would also help them with some appreciation of the difficulties and nuances involved with assistant refereeing.

At the weekend, Marrakchi and Mendez stepped in at short notice and, under a lot of pressure, did a great job. They were calm and composed in all of their actions (on the outside anyway!). 

They served all of their colleagues at PRO, their crew on the day, MLS and the game itself with much credit. Well done, guys!

Play of the Week: Click here to read more educational material from Paul Rejer


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