Play of the Week: Interfering with an Opponent in NY vs. TOR

USA celebrate their winning goal against Ghana

PRO's Training & Development Paul Rejer discusses a goal in the New York Red Bulls versus Toronto FC game in Play of the Week 16, examining whether 'Interfering with an Opponent' applied.

Rejer considers whether the goal, which was scored in the 71st minute, should have been disallowed for offside.

He said: “Following an altercation between Toronto's Gilberto and Jermain Defoe over who should take the free kick, Gilberto appears to win the argument and lines up to take it. 

“At this point their team-mate, Jackson, is deliberately standing in an offside position. Between them, referee Hilario Grajeda and AR Eric Weisbrod had to decide whether, at the moment the ball is played, Jackson was interfering with an opponent - Red Bulls' goalkeeper Luis Robles. 

“Let’s remind ourselves of what the law says:

- '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. 

“It is apparent to them that Jackson is not challenging for the ball so they have to decide whether he is clearly obstructing Robles’ line of vision. 

“You could make the argument that Jackson is standing there for a reason, maybe a tactic. I would accept that he possibly distracts Luis Robles and that that maybe was his intention. 

“However the word 'distract' has been removed from the Laws so the officials cannot take this into consideration. So was he 'clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision'?

“This is always a difficult one for ARs to interpret. As they look across the field they have no depth perception and cannot tell with any degree of accuracy whether the offside player is directly in front of the 'keeper, so they have to rely on the referee who has a far superior viewing angle. 

“They can tell how far the player is from the 'keeper, and the further distance between them, the less chance there is of interference. 

“If someone is standing directly in front of you, your line of vision is seriously impaired. You can see very little behind that person. The further away that person is, the more you can see. 

“In this case, I estimate that Jackson is some seven to eight yards from Robles and Jackson is no more affecting Robles than the defensive wall. The diagrams in FIFA Laws of the game do not cover this particular play. 

“Diagram six on page 112 shows a central position with the offside player directly in line. This free kick was at an angle, with a defensive wall, with the players a greater distance from each other and not directly in line. 

“Gilberto steps up and scores a classic goal – arguably one of the goals of the season. It was unstoppable. 

“Did Jackson prevent Luis Robles from saving it? Do we really want to disallow such a wonderful goal by looking for dubious technicalities to disallow it? As officials do we want to be 'party poopers' and rule out this fantastic strike, which no one, including the Red Bulls defenders, expected? 

“No, we should be positive and look for reasons to allow goals, particularly goals of this nature. Well done the match officials and well done Gilberto.”