I have now reviewed video of the foul called on Clint Dempsey that nullified a nice goal by Jozy Altidore the other day over a dozen times. While the official could have certainly just waved on the play (which I may have done, but I am not an official and do have a rooting interest when the US plays), which often happens when the US plays at home in CONCACAF (just ask Canada or Panama) I have to defend his decision to stop play and disallow the goal.
US Soccer.com’s official account of the match had the following passage:
The U.S. appeared to gain the insurance goal in the 58th minute off the foot of Jozy Altidore, but the breakaway goal was called off. Starting the attack in their own end, Donovan sent a long pass along the ground to Dempsey at the halfway line. Pushing it around his defender, it appeared to go too far ahead before Dempsey raced to lunge and push the ball through for Altidore from just inside the half before sliding into a defender. The pass fell perfectly to Altidore, who walked in alone and slotted a shot right through the Montes’ legs, and while the offside flag stayed down, Pineda whistled Dempsey for a foul and the goal was nullified.
FIFA’s Laws of the Game state the following:
The act of charging an opponent is challenging for space using physical contact within the playing distance of the ball without using arms or elbows.
Here is how explain the officials actions:
Dempsey had taken a poor touch on the ball and played the ball into space forward while moving in a pacey manner. The Salvadorian defender attempted to win the ball with a clean challenge to which Dempsey responded by lunging, studs out at the defender, bringing him to the ground while achieving the goal of poking the ball forward to Altidore who was in an onside position. This is a foul if you stick to the letter of the law. It is as simple an explanation as that.
Would I have called a foul? Perhaps not, but the various conspiracy theories floated by American supporters the last few days are completely off base especially when the officials actions fell within the letter of the law per the FIFA rules. I have seen goals called back for fouls with much less intent and recklessness that the one on Saturday night.