Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Challenging Tournament Weekend

I had a great weekend working a large tournament in the area.  With the decidedly Spring-like weather and good soccer, I couldn't have asked for more.
I was originally scheduled to work a tournament site that hosts the younger boys games, but at the last minute, I was moved to the site with the older teams.  I wasn't going to complain as I need the field time with the bigger boys.
In one of the games in which I was an AR, we had an interesting bit of play.  The white team came through alone about 30 yards out, making a run toward the left side of the goal.  The keeper came out to meet him and the attacker flicked the ball toward the right post.  He didn't get all of it and it slowly bounced toward the post.  A black defender got to the ball and instead of clearing it, kicked it straight up in the air.  Naturally, the keeper caught it coming down.  I popped the flag immediately.  The referee looked at me a little confused and came walking over.  I told him this play falls under the "deliberately kicked to the keeper" part of Law 12 and that it was an indirect kick to the attackers.  There was much protest as the defenders felt it wasn't a "pass-back" etc.  The indirect kick resulted in a goal.
I was a bit nervous about my decision, until I check the "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game."  Section 12.20 tells us this:
A goalkeeper infringes Law 12 if he or she touches the ball with the hands directly after it has been deliberately kicked to him or her by a teammate. The requirement that the ball be kicked means only that it has been played with the foot. The requirement that the ball be "kicked to" the goalkeeper means only that the play is to or toward a place where the ‘keeper can legally handle the ball. The requirement that the ball be "deliberately kicked" means that the play on the ball is deliberate and does not include situations in which the ball has been, in the opinion of the referee, accidentally deflected or misdirected.
So, in this case, the defender deliberately kicked the ball.  Obviously, it was kicked to where the keeper could legally handle the ball.  We have to get away from calling this a "pass back" because that results in too much confusion.  This surely falls into the category of Myths of the Game.
When I was in the middle, there was 2 plays that were interesting when compared.  I got a lot of grief from one of the coaches on this.  In one case, we have a high ball come in on red's keeper.  Two gray players are in front of him and to either side.  As the ball comes down, the keeper reaches over the players and catches the ball before they can head it.  On the way down, he hits one of the gray players shoulders and that player falls to the ground.  All player eyes were on the ball.  To me, there was no hint of foul play.  About 2 minutes later, red is attacking and they come free at the top of the penalty area.  Gray's keeper comes out.  As red shoots, the keeper slides through the attacker.  This is not red tripping over the keeper.  This is the keeper sliding through the legs of the attacker.  I whistle hard and point to the spot.  The difference between the two plays, in my opinion, is the first case is the keeper playing the ball and inadvertently getting a player.  The 2nd play is the keeper taking the ball, or the player, or both in a careless fashion.  After the game, the coach ripped me pretty good.  His take was I needed to be "consistent" etc.  I've never understood that.  We penalize the team that commits the fouls without regard for making the count event out.  I feel confident I made the correct decisions here.  That said, it did get me thinking about how much leeway we give to keepers.  Do we let them get away with too much?  Do we do our best to make sure we protect them when necessary, but punish them when they take advantage of their position?  Give that some thought.  The laws make it clear that keepers are just like any other player, aside from their ability to handle the ball.
The next day, I was with another crew on an adjacent field.  I knew right away this was going to be a better day.  These guys were in real good shape, and based on the first game (I watched as I had the 2nd middle), they were also very experienced.
The 2nd game of the day was my first in the middle.  The game started pretty well, but it was clear one of the teams was weaker.  About midway through the half, I started to get a lot of complaining from that team's bench.  So much so that I gave the coach the "stop sign" hand and a run by saying "Enough coach!"  I was trying to be patient as it seemed they were getting frustrated.  Going into the 2nd half, all was going pretty well.  There was a routine careless charge in front of the benches which I immediately called.  Naturally, it was against the complaining coach's team.  The coach just starts screaming "what is the call?  WHAT IS THE CALL?"  I stopped play and motioned the coach onto the field.  I started the "Ask, Tell, Remove" procedure outlined in the 2009 directives by saying "Coach, I'm asking you to calm down.  I've already talked to you once."  Well, this guy was incensed I guess (by a trivial careless foul call).  He wouldn't stop.  I had enough, so I dismissed him.  I admit, I probably could have given him one more chance, but I've seen that back-fire previously.  The level of anger in this coach made it clear to me he wasn't going to get better, and I sensed he was getting his players wound up as well.  This is not good so off he went.  Interestingly enough, I got a little push back on that one from the assignor.  Personally, I'm starting to wonder if maybe the assignor is paying a little too much attention to the tournament organizers and the political aspect of the tournament and not enough to the behavior of the teams and coaches, but that's another post for another day.
About 5 minutes later, there was a reckless tackle by the same team.  It seemed to be a routine caution right up until the player told me "You're f-ing terrible!"  Yeah, it seemed to meet the criteria of "Public/Personal/Provocative" so off he went.  Fortunately, it was right in front of my AR as well, so he heard it.  I noticed his (remaining) coach didn't seemed surprised at all when I went to the back pocket.  That's usually a sign that the player has been there before.
The big news of the day was I was given the U-16 final game!  I guess I've been doing these tournaments long enough that the assignor recognizes I don't screw up too badly!
The highlight of the game for me was I had that "ah ha!" moment with a player and cautioned him for persistent infringement.  I noticed his pattern of fouling pretty early.  He was the white team's right back.  His play was kind of ugly when challenging for the ball near the flag.  Lots of arms over shoulders and hands on jerseys etc.  I talked to him after the 2 foul (and 1 or 2 triflings that I let go).  He committed another foul at about half way.  I called him over and was able to point to each spot on the field where he had committed all the fouls.  When you are able to do that, everyone on the field is OK with the caution and also knows you are paying attention.
It turned out the be a really interesting game.  The under-dog team went on to win, stunning the favored side!  It was a well played game and I felt like it was one of my better outings.  That's a nice way to end a tournament!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Stormy Spring Opener

I finally got out on the field this weekend.  To be honest, I didn't think it was going to happen.  I live in the mid-Atlantic region.  We were hit by rain and wind on Friday and Saturday that honestly had me contemplating building an ark in the back yard.  Seriously, it was really nasty.
Fortunately, my Sunday games were scheduled for a high school turf field, so I knew field conditions would not be an issue.  However, I did not completely anticipate the issue of getting to the field.  The high school is about 25 miles from my house, through relatively rural towns.
As is my habit, I time it so I arrive at the field at least 30 minutes before the game.  In this case, because of the distance, I decided to get there 40 minutes early.  That was a good decision.  The storm had caused so much chaos that it took me much longer to get to the field than usual.  One small town got hit hard by the storm.  There were downed trees literally everywhere.  I was detoured 3 times going through town.  I saw drooping utility lines in many places.  Traffic was tough on those 2-lane county roads.  Between two of the towns there are about 10 traffic lights.  Only 1 was functional.  It was chaos.  The lesson here is you must anticipate how long it will take to get to the field and plan accordingly.  Fortunately, I got there about 25 minutes before game time.  One of the teams was running significantly late so it worked out.
We had 3 games on Sunday, U-13 girls, U-19 boys and U-11 boys.  I always tell my assignor to send me wherever he needs me, regardless of distance.  I don't mind driving.  It was obvious why he sent me to this field.  One of the guys I worked with was a solid referee, but clearly did not have the fitness to run with U-19 boys and the other guy was a brand new official and only about 17 years old.
We kicked off the cob webs pretty quickly in the U-13 game.  It was very windy so we had to work a little harder to communicate on the field.  Everything went well.  We did have one issue I wanted to mention.  Just before the game started, I asked the guy in the middle about half-duration.  He said "35 minutes."  Since I didn't have the game card, I took his word for it.  It turns out this age plays 40 minute halves.  This was discovered at half time.  The correct solution is to get the teams right back on the field for the remaining 5 minutes, then break for the half.  This referee decided to do a 45 minute second half which is not the correct solution.  Section 7.3 in the "Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game" says this:
If the referee ends play early, then the teams must be called back onto the field and the remaining time must be played as soon as the error is detected.
Obviously, this could have been handled better.  I should have pushed harder for the correct solution, but I am reticent to be seen as a "know it all."  Otherwise, the game went well.
I am really starting to enjoy doing the older boys games.  I was looking forward to this test of my fitness.  I hope to upgrade to grade 7, so getting a U-19 game is a big deal.  Also, they are few and far between in this area.  The game was fairly straight forward.  The first half went well.  Play was fast, but not as fast as the Super Y League games I did in the summer.  My fitness was better than I had expected and I was able to keep up with play just fine.  It was a well matched game, arriving at the half, 3-0 in favor of the visitors.  In the second half, the home team managed a goal and I thought the game would get more competitive, but they ended up giving up a few and the game eventually ended 6-1.  A few positives came out of the game.  I mentioned in the Fall I was having positioning problems.  I was getting in the way of the players too often.  The issue seems to be better and I managed to stay out of the way for the most part.  I find it's actually a benefit to be further from play in the older games than I would be in the younger games.  Being further away (20 yards) gives you a wider view of what's going on and allows you to keep out of the way. 
Also, I felt good about my ability to set boundaries for the players early.  There was a few aerial balls early on that I yelled "Straight up guys!" while the ball was in the air.  In one case, a player went over the back of another.  I called the foul and said to the player "I said straight up..."  That was the last time I had to mention it for the rest of the game.  Proactive refereeing works.
The third game of the day was good.  The new guy that we worked with had never done a game in the middle.  He had a few on the side.  I encouraged him to do the last game.  We talked for a few minutes before.  I just told him to run flag to flag and call the simple, obvious falls.  Leave the rest to us and he'd be fine.  I gave him a whistle and let him borrow one of my watches and coin (Yes, he's a young guy and doesn't have all his stuff yet).  He did pretty well.  His position was a little awkward.  He had his back to his AR's a little too often.  At the half, I told him a trick someone told me.  When you cross mid-field, always run along the left side of the center circle.  This forces you to get wide enough.  I also told him to try to stay behind play a little more and keep his chest square to the goal line so he can see play and his AR at the same time.  It worked really well.  His 2nd half was much better.  He even made a couple solid foul decisions.  I really enjoy working with new referees.  I think I can make a significant contribution doing this if the opportunity comes up.
It was great to get out on the field again.  Let me know how your Spring season starts!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Spring 2010

Well, it's finally here!  No, I'm not referring to Spring.  That's a few weeks off.  I am talking about the impending Spring season.  I live in the Northeastern United States.  The amount of snow we had this year was unbelievable so I can assure you I'm ready for soccer.
Last night we had our pre-season, local league meeting for referees.  It went well, although I would say these meetings are most useful for the referees that are not going to show up in the first place.  The state committe was there reviewing some points of emphasis which I found useful.  The league reviews issues about filling out game cards and the like, but the neglect to review competition rules.  You would think they would take advantage of having everyone in the same room.  The referee assignors go over things like showing up to the field properly dressed and how to make nice with coaches.  Again, these items are really not for the 80% that show up at the meeting.  They are targeted to the 20% that do not.
With all the bad weather we've been having, I've been working like a crazy man to get my fitness level to an acceptable level.  It has been tough between missing days because of snow covered roads, family schedule conflicts and just plain laziness.  That said, I'm back up to 3 or 4 miles of running so I should be OK.
I put in availability for the first weekend (3/14), but the weather forecast is not looking good.  I'm guessing we'll be rained out.  Sooner or later, I'll be back on the field!