Free Kick Union

On Wednesday, the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) published an article detailing the Philadelphia Union’s game winning goal against Orlando City on Friday night. PRO is the organization responsible for managing the referee and assistant referees program in MLS - so this is about as official as it gets.


PRO’s Training and Development Manager Paul Rejer first focuses on the setup of the free kick.


Referee Jair Marrufo properly sets up the free kick and even warns the Union players who are standing behind the Orlando City wall in a deliberate offside position the dangers of being penalized. Rejer says this is all good practice according to PRO standards. What happens next, though, doesn't quite go by the book.


Tranquillo Barnetta takes the free kick and scores what would be the game winner for the Union, but when looking at the letter of the law, Rajer says the goal should have never been allowed.


The rulebook states “Interfering with an opponent” means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision or challenging an opponent for the ball”. The four Union players in an offside position are clearly deploying a tactic to interfere with goalkeeper Joe Bendik. If they aren’t in an onside position before the ball is kicked they should be declared offside. (VIDEO)

PRO Concludes Union’s Final Goal was Incorrectly Allowed -

This call would stem from a FIFA mandate that any player deliberately standing in an offside position as a tactic will be declared offside. The Union attempted this same strategy earlier in the match, but all four players made it onside before the ball was played.


Rajer discusses what went wrong on the play.


At PRO we have discussed this tactic at our camps on numerous occasions; it has been covered on our website. Our officials have been instructed that the referee should be proactive by clearly warning the offside players that they will be penalized if they remain in offside positions.

You can see that Marrufo does this, however AR Peter Balciunas does not raise his flag and the goal is incorrectly allowed.


The most unfortunate part? PRO had addressed the issues as early last last season a goal was wrongly allowed in a match between New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC.


Despite the incorrect call, it is refreshing to see PRO take ownership of the play while also providing us with a detailed look at the process.