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Play in review: Was Rachel Daly robbed of a hat trick?

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Did Daly interfere with the goalkeeper attempting to release the ball?

Soccer: NWSL Challenge Cup-Houston Dash vs Utah Royals FC Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Guest contributor Jake Catanese is a grassroots level referee and posts about the Revs over at The Bent Musket.

I could have sworn I already wrote about this. I distinctly remember Bradley Wright-Phillips doing this in the first leg of the 2014 Eastern Conference Final. (It’s towards the middle of that long post, that day was a mess.)

Well now it appears that Houston Dash fans are mad at referee Karen Abt for robbing striker Rachel Daly of a hat trick and possibly three points after a wild 3-3 draw against the Utah Royals. Seriously, go watch the highlights for this one, cause it was wild. And no, there’s no controversy here:

This is the right call and there’s no debating any rules or interpretations here. I’ve been telling U10 kids not to do this for years and the reason why it rarely is seen in the professional game is because of all that hard work in the younger ranks.

You cannot, under any circumstance, disrupt/obstruct/interfere with/etc. a goal keeper before, during or after they distribute the ball and the ball is back into play.

IFAB Law 12: An indirect free kick is awarded if a player prevents the goalkeeper from releasing the ball from the hands or kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it.

IF this play was legal, and it’s not, you would see cherry pickers trying to hound the goalkeeper into a mistake for about all 90 minutes of the game, which would be terrible to watch even at the professional level.

This is from US Soccer guidance on a 2010 MLS game:

A goalkeeper is considered to be in the process of “releasing the ball” from the first moment when he or she has clearly taken hand control of the ball until the moment when the ball has been clearly released into play. This includes any time when the goalkeeper is:

· bouncing the ball

· running with the ball

· in the process of dropping the ball in preparation for kicking it

· throwing the ball.

During the time the goalkeeper has control of the ball and is preparing to release it into active play, an opponent may not stand or move so close as to restrict the direction or distance of the goalkeeper’s release.

When a goalkeeper is in possession of the ball (i.e., they’re holding the darn thing in their hands), assume that you should be socially distancing from them.

This does not mean that this distribution is a free pass and opponents can’t intercept the distribution or pass, but they may only do so from an appropriate distance as long as they have no effect on the initial path and/or flight of the ball. Also, once a goalkeeper in possession drops or places the ball on the ground, it is considered to be back in play as they are no longer a goalkeeper in possession, but an outfield player.

I would also recommend staying approximately five yards away just to be on the safe side during any goalkeeper distribution attempt. That way when something weird happens, like a shanked punt or similar, myself or other referees will be less inclined to assume you, the opposing player, had something to do with said mishap, blame you for it, and whistle for an indirect free kick. There is no specific minimum distance required for opponents to give the goalkeeper, but the more distance the less of a chance of the referee whistling you for an infraction.

Daly is simply too over eager in the moment and lunges in front of the keeper, possibly with studs exposed, and blocks the attempted punt. While Daly avoids contact with the keeper, her effort restricts the keeper’s initial distance and direction of the distribution against the interpretation of the law and rightly the ensuing goal is disallowed.

Daly was fortunate to not be booked for this infraction as it is commonplace to issue a caution for this encroachment offense. The reason why a caution should be issued here is that this is a player safety issue. Goalkeepers, especially while distributing the ball, need these protections because they are constantly in unique situations and positions and are not always able to protect themselves from incoming contact the way outfield players can. Keepers need to be focused on their distribution and not avoiding contact and challenges while in mid-drop kick.

Simply blocking, or attempting to block, a goalkeeper distribution should be regarded as a yellow card for encroachment similar to a player failing to respect 10 yards on a free kick. Making contact with a distributing goalkeeper could cause a fall or other injury, and in my opinion would be endangering the safety of an opponent and subject to a red card for serious foul play though whether or not this is a FIFA or professional interpretation I can not say for sure but I think it should be.

This is effectively how I teach youth players this rule. Merely shadowing the goalkeeper before or during distribution will earn a talking to so I can inform said player to cut that stuff out. If that conversation is unsuccessful, that’s what the cards in your pocket are for. Also, for you grassroots referees who occasionally may come across a player being smart about that six-second rule for keepers, remind said smart youth player that said six second clock doesn’t start (at least mine doesn’t) until they back up.

Also, all NWSL players have this referee’s permission to celebrate on the above playground during a goal and while I believe you shouldn’t be cautioned for excessive celebration, please check with your actual on field referee crew beforehand on any punishments and with the NWSL for any potential loss of finances for spending recess on the playground.