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The Third Yellow: Hartford Athletic’s Epic Winner...shouldn’t have counted

An epic standing scorpion kick in the 90th minute for a game winner should be cause for celebration...except when it’s not

SOCCER: JUL 20 USL - Charleston Battery at Hartford Athletic Photo by Williams Paul/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images thinks this is a Puskas nominee.

SportsCenter thinks this was the second best play of the night in their Top 10 and it’s own highlight segment.

I think it’s a foul. But no whistle blew, and the goal and scoreline stand.

Yes Mr Danny Barrera, in my opinion, your game winning, standing scorpion kick goal against Philadelphia Union II that is being lauded and praised for its spectacular wonder and rarity...should have been called back and whistled as encroachment/delaying the restart and Hartford Athletic should have likely drawn the game 2-2.

I have been saying this since Bradley Wright-Phillips encroached on Bobby Shuttleworth in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final first leg and will continue to say this when it comes up seemingly once a year:

If obstructing a goalkeepers distribution was legal we would see this play multiple times a week. Since it’s not, and we don’t, we’re just going to have to remind everyone why I am and will always be a stickler for this play until morale improves. Simply, it’s a player safety issue - goalkeepers in possession (i.e. - holding the ball in their hands) need space and time to safely distribute the ball without worry of interference from opponents.

Attempting to challenge a goalkeeper in possession, regardless of contact with the ball or keeper, should be judged as a careless challenge and a caution issued to the offender to reinforce that this at the professional level. Obviously, a serious challenge or excessive force on a goalkeeper in possession will likely result in a red card, which is why we dissuade players from doing it at all and caution them in the rare event that it does occur at the professional level.

The reason we don’t see this play at the professional level almost ever, is that I spend a lot of time telling U10/U12 players to back away from the keeper when they have the ball, not to jump at the ball when it’s being punted and not to try and kick the ball out of the keepers hands. Okay, I’m sure I have the help of a lot of grassroots and recreational level referees, but still, I’m helping. Now obviously I’m not cautioning every young player I see doing this, because after talking to the youth players, they get it pretty quickly and knock it off.

Rachel Daly of the Houston Dash didn’t get away with this as I wrote for All for XI earlier during the NWSL Challenge Cup. Real Madrid shouldn’t have gotten away with it either DAMON and this “Arton9320” that he’s citing instead of the rambling grassroots referee that just got home from work.

Now, despite my convictions about the legality of this goal, there is more debate with Barrera’s play than in a lot of the previous referenced examples. Daly, BWP, and Real Madrid all were in the immediate vicinity of the goalkeeper when they very clearly obstructed the distribution from the goalkeeper. Barrera however is a couple of yards away at least, so the Union II keeper has plenty of space to see Barrera and release the ball unimpeded and that might be enough to get him off the hook here in some circles. But not mine.

I respect the heck of MSLRefStats but I will die on this hill despite the fact that Barrera has actual things going for him here. First, he’s not point blank blocking the throw as mentioned earlier. Barrera’s about 2-3 yards away from the keeper, though I prefer at least a 5-yard cushion between distributing goalkeepers and their opponents. The bigger the distance, the less likely you’re going to get called for this sort of play when weird stuff happens. Second, Barrera’s clearly playing the ball, and in no way challenging the keeper directly and whether through luck or skill, the deflection carries 20 yards into the goal.

However, Barerra does stop near the top of the area and while he isn’t shadowing the keeper, he’s not retreating from his position either. Then he very deliberately sticks his scorpion leg up in the air to block the intended distribution. These actions, in my opinion both stopping at the top of the box and the leg kick, are only to make a deliberate attempt to alter the initial distance and direction of the distribution and should have been whistled for encroachment.

If Barrera had been retreating and done the same action, I’d have no problem with the play. I think he’s still too close to the Union keeper with how this play is judged and interpreted and I am absolutely shocked there was not a protest from the Union II players.

The language Snake is using above might be too colorful and, he’s not wrong about the keeper making a less than ideal decision as well. However, in more plain English and less referee lawspeak, yes, attempting to block a keeper distribution, well... it’s a jerk move. And while I don’t explain it to the youth players like that, I absolutely do mean it like that because I write unsporting behavior after a lot of yellow cards for a reason.

That doesn’t make Barrera a jerk or a dirty player or anything like that, but there’s no changing my mind on how this play should be called, even if this particular play is far closer to being valid than most. To reinforce the earlier point, if it were legal to block a keeper distribution immediately or slightly after it was released, we’d see goals from these sorts of things all the time. Okay, maybe not twenty yard one legged flicks that one hop into the net but you get the idea. But hey, it’s not illegal if the man in the middle points to the center circle instead of blowing his whistle and my opinion a day later means nada.

Barrera’s play was an epic feat of athleticism, if I even thought about doing that I’d pull 3 muscles and tear a ligament, as far as I’m concerned it is still not a legal goal. If I don’t think Real F Madrid should be allowed to do it in the Champions League Final, I’m sure as heck not going to be okay with it in a USL match on a cool, fall evening in Chester, PA.

While SportsCenter and fans marvel at a spectacular winner, I am disappointed that goal was allowed. It doesn’t take away from the great season Hartford Athletic are having, but you won’t see me celebrating that winner or the two extra points in the standings.