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Play of the Week 6: DOGSO - Law change

April 12, 2017

By PRO Training & Development Manager Paul Rejer 

In Play of the Week 6, we are discussing the new DOGSO (Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity) Law change and the implications it had in the Philadelphia Union versus Portland Timbers game over the weekend.

In this play we see Timbers’ Darren Mattocks gain possession of the ball and attempt to take it around Union goalkeeper Andre Blake, who then brings Mattocks down. 

Referee Robert Sibiga has five decisions to make:

1. Has Blake committed a foul?
2. If so, did it take place inside or outside of the penalty area?
3. Is this DOGSO?
4. Has Blake made an attempt for the ball or is there no opportunity for him to play the ball?
5. Therefore, under the new Law change, is this a red card?

On these first two decisions, Sibiga appears to have no doubt and, from a good position, he confidently points to the penalty mark. When you look at the play, Blake brings Mattocks down and the contact is inside the penalty area. This is confirmed by assistant referee Kyle Longville, who is level with the edge of the penalty area. Sibiga also believes that Blake denied Mattocks an obvious goal scoring opportunity.

The following Law considerations must be examined:

- Distance between the offense and goal
- General direction of the play
- Likelihood of Mattocks keeping or gaining control of the ball
- Location and number of defenders

It is clear that the first three criteria occur here. Mattocks is inside the penalty area moving towards goal and he would have kept possession of the ball had the foul not occurred.

The only question is whether the two defenders could have intercepted the ball. If you look at the exact moment when the foul occurs, both defenders are behind Mattocks and he would have had an empty goal in which to score.

We have established that all the considerations in Law are covered and, under the old Law, this would absolutely be a red card. However, under the new Law criteria, it is not necessarily a red card. It states:

Where a player commits an offense against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offending player is cautioned unless:

- The offense is holding, pulling or pushing or

- The offending player does not attempt to play the ball or there is no possibility for the player making the challenge to play the ball or

- The offense is one which is punishable by a red card wherever it occurs on the field of play (e.g. serious foul play, violent conduct etc.)

Consequently, as the first and last considerations do not apply in this play, Sibiga must decide whether Blake made an attempt to play the ball, and whether there was no possibility for him to play the ball. 

As he issues a yellow card to Blake, Sibiga decides that the goalkeeper either made an attempt to play the ball or there was indeed a possibility for him to play the ball. There are protests that the contact takes place outside of the penalty area, and Sibiga explains to Blake that if that was the case he would have to send him off.

Following the brandishing of the yellow card, AR1 Adam Wienckowski and fourth official Jorge Gonzalez ask the referee to go over to them to discuss. You can see the three of them having a thoughtful and meaningful discussion.

With any new Law, particularly with one of this magnitude, both officials want to be diligent and be 100 per cent sure that Sibiga is making the correct call. You can understand their concern as there is doubt whether Blake makes an attempt to play the ball. Following the discussion, Sibiga decides to go ahead with his original call and not send Blake off.

Is he correct? Can we make a case that the goalkeeper was not making an attempt to play the ball?

His right hand goes for the ball and his left brings the player down. Only in slow motion does it appear that Blake was not trying to play the ball with this hand. In normal speed, the action of the goalkeeper is to go towards the ball and play it. The Law does not require a judgement as to how good of an attempt it was to play the ball.

The general philosophy on this Law, as explained by The IFAB (International Football Association Board), is that if the referee is unsure whether the player has made an attempt, or if there is a possibility of the defender playing the ball, the referee should err on the side of a yellow card rather than red card. So, any movement in the general direction of the ball can be interpreted as an attempt. This is exactly what Sibiga does here. 

According to Law, the default setting of the referee in such a scenario is to issue a yellow card.

Here is a quote from The IFAB:

“Referees should apply the philosophy of the Law change - if the player unsuccessfully attempts to play the ball or challenge the opponent for the ball and a penalty kick is awarded, the correct sanction is a caution (yellow card). The player’s movement towards the ball/opponent is a good indication of whether or not the player was attempting to play the ball or challenge the opponent for the ball."

We always encourage our officials to have dialogue, which is of vital importance. All four members of the crew were involved in aspects of this call and they all deserve much credit for their diligence, teamwork and fortitude, and for making the correct call.

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


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