Soccer Referee Resources
Ask a Question
Recent Questions

Previous You-Call-It's

VAR (Video Assistant Referee)

Q&A Quick Search
The Field of Play
The Ball
The Players
The Players Equipment
The Referee
The Other Match Officials
The Duration of the Match
The Start and Restart of Play
The Ball In and Out of Play
Determining the Outcome of a Match
Fouls and Misconduct
Free Kicks
Penalty kick
Throw In
Goal Kick
Corner Kick

Common Sense
Kicks - Penalty Mark
The Technical Area
The Fourth Official
Attitude and Control
League Specific
High School

Common Acronyms
Meet The Ref
Contact AskTheRef
Help Wanted
About AskTheRef

Soccer Rules Changes 1580-2000

Panel Login

Question Number: 35010

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 6/16/2023

RE: Comp Adult

Doug Crawford of Folsom, CA US asks...

Hi there - player A (USA) commits a careless pushing foul, pushing by both continues for 2 seconds, then player B (Mexico) commits a reckless tripping foul.
Which team gets the free kick, after player B is cautioned and shown the yellow card? Isn't giving the free kick to USA rewarding player A for the pushing foul? Of course player B needs to learn how to just play, and let the ref apply the advantage rule when needed.
I know this was an iffy pushing foul and the ref may have not been willing to call the pushing foul anyway, but I just wanted your advice on a foul that leads to misconduct.
And of course this was the spark that led immediately to the confrontation w 2 red cards (A&B did not initially get reds) and eventually 4 total reds.
I'm sure this won't be the last question about this game!
This was USA v Mexico in the Concacaf Nations League Semifinal 6/15/23, game time 68:27. /Thanks!

Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Doug ,
it evolved into an ugly game played with spirit but bad intentions all around! As a group we know that as armchair observers we see things different yet fully aware how difficult it is to referee such an intense international match of two teams that are always at each other throats, lots of passion and generally something on the line to play for in real time.

In my opinion, I felt earlier cards & a gripping pullback of the rash actions and challenges was necessary but again the let them play, let them decide their fate is a difficult proposition for a referee who would like that but cannot do so because of choices players' make!

The following scrums actually benefited Canada as two very strong USA players are not available . Not that is a good thing just a detail. USA might feel it needed to stand up for each other but neither red card served a purpose.

Although why Ochoa was carded is sad as he must be so tired of his teammates playing like idiotic hotheads all I saw was him trying to calm things down. Mexico has lost a lot of my respect as they constantly seem to come across as sore losers and it's always others at fault or to blame.

As to the start of this reel .
While I can agree they both were both holding or pulling, that was a RED Card excessive kick 100% SFP it was not reckless and if I recall an immediate red card was shown? If that red was not for the kick but the follow up carnage that ensued it was very unclear to those of us watching. I suspect the referee will not be happy with their performance no matter the players did indeed make it impossible for him to truly enjoy the outing!

It appeared as if the referee was accepting the challenges by both prior to the kick as mutually fair albeit the USA player did appear to start it with a grab pull back as the Mexican player used the free arm to hold him across the chest . The USA player overwhelmed the effort and swung in ahead which no doubt irritated the Mexican player as unfair and thus sought to take matters into his own hands!

Although I believe the referee had decided to allow the initial challenges to be acceptable in tolerance as trifling or doubtful in the old adage of trying to let them play and not interfere.
I believe the referee actually needed to be less lenient as player conduct on both teams descended into retaliatory payback opportunities rather than any degree of elite football.
I suspect the free kick was for the kicking foul as I do not think there was advantage being considered.

I will say this if a player retaliates immediately because he thinks the foul that bothered him went unnoticed, as it occurs quickly before any advantage is possible then the retaliation will be seen as MISCONDUCT and cardable but the 1st initial foul will STILL be the reason for the restart!

In terms of the LOTG , if indeed a player was being fouled and the referee was thinking advantage "might" occur only to see that player give it up by a rash act and take it way by retaliation, is rather sad. That is why I like to signal and call out "Advantage" as in progress hoping to deter a retaliatory response so the player is aware I DID see it and the player can take heart rather than get angry. When I then yell "play on!" that initial foul ceases to be important as the reasoning to stop & go back and restart for the first foul has passed.

What is difficult to perhaps grasp is the timing of the events .
Your referee applies advantage on a foul against you , if the advantage is realized the referee will not be going back to that foul as a restart but then you ruin it yourself by retaliating late you might not get credit for that initial foul as that opportunity had passed when the advantage was realized. Instead the free kick will go against you!

In a u-21 match #13 red had a good pull on #7 blue shirt. Blue #7 fought hard to stay upright and pulled free just outside the PA. I think #13 realized if he had continued to hold that would be upgraded to a PK foul & relinquished his grasp .

I called out advantage play on and even said aloud "#13 red defender you're in the book". Our #7 Blue player gets inside the PA, cuts around the keeper at a tough angle, now there was ample opportunity to lay it back to two very clear teammates for a much easier tap in but he elects to shoot at the open goal hitting the near post and out for a goal kick.

Upset he turned around, found, then stepped towards & shoved the defender in the face, sending him to the ground even as I was running up with a yellow card in my hand to show the defender. I did that, then showed the red card to the attacker who was upset why he should not get the free kick and mad as hell that I sent him off for VC reducing his team a player

You either understand advantage for what it is or you do not.

Advantage does not GUARANTEE a goal only a good or better attacking opportunity than the free kick would provide. Most importantly that is in the opinion of the referee. Once a referee has decided the advantage WAS realized he does not go back to that restart even though there was cardable misconduct involved . That is taken care of at the next stoppage. In this case the goal kick.

Now it WAS true on the initial pull outside the PA left corner about 25 yards from goal I could have very easily blown the whistle and awarded a free kick after cautioning the defender. Some will be adamant in hindsight that was a better choice as the foul did slow the attack and perhaps altered the angle of opportunity but then too there were two onside open teammates available and who is to say after rounding the keeper in control of the ball he could not have dribbled in closer given the defenders were still a several yards away. As I point out each referee makes his own bed! Your Match, Your Decision, Your Reputation!


Read other questions answered by Referee Richard Dawson

View Referee Richard Dawson profile

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Doug
Thanks for the question.
It was a shocking display of misconduct by both sides in those two instances and in my opinion both teams need to be heavily censured for the totally unacceptable behaviour. There is no place for this in the game and a poor example for young players. Indeed I feel that there was misconduct that was not sanctioned and only the obvious misconduct seen by the officials was sanctioned.

As to the first sending off the kick by the Mexican player was simply a deliberate kick of the USA opponent as there was no attempt to play the ball and while the USA player may have been guilty of a pushing offence I feel that the more appropriate restart was a direct free kick for the serious foul play. It is premised on when two instances that happen very close together and while they were not simultaneous the more serious offence deserves to sanctioned with the restart. I could not see Mexico getting the restart there unless the referee had whistled for the arm pushing first
In hindsight the referee could have blown for the first offence almost the moment it started to happen as he had done throughout the game up to that point yet perhaps he felt that there was not enough of a offence for it to be called. He did whistle for less earlier so he either did not see it or thought it was no an offence.
No doubt the kick out was a build up of frustration as to went on in the game up to that point. Even the 2nd red card incident was a total lack of discipline by the US player. The game was effectively over yet the US dismissed player chose to get involved with opponents in a way that ended up in a red card.

Now I think the bigger learning point here is match control and how the game descended into these unsavoury scenes.
Looking back at the game there was a late challenge on Mendes by #20 USA around the 59th minute just inside his penalty area and it looked like studs to the shin area and late. The sock was ripped and it looked like a sore contact. The foul was called yet no disciplinary sanction was taken. Given that #15 Mendes was cautioned for pulling down Reyna earlier that would raise frustration levels with the player.
There had been no issues for 55 minutes and indeed even minor tugging was called as late as the 54/55 minutes against US players around half way with no real issues. Then there was the Reyna injury to the head which was also unpunished other than a free kick. The Mexican defender #21 was already on a caution and jumped into the opponent with his shoulder making contact to his head. Reyna after blood treatment went down the field and he was fouled by Mendes #15 which resulted in a caution. Reyna immediately started to “rise” the crowd which resulted in the first major confrontation of players. Some minutes later Reyna pulled down an opponent close to the touchline which should have been punished with a card yet that did not happen.
So in many ways a series of action / no action resulted in a build up of frustration resulting in the first red card.
The referee may have thought that one caution in almost an hour in with no major issues did not send out any signal that all was not well yet all it took was a few incidents that were not correctly handled for the game to jump up and bite in an unpleasant way.
We talk about "Moments of Truth" and I think the Reyna aerial foul was the situation where all that began followed by the injury to Mendes shortly afterwards.
Both in my opinion were cautions and neither player was sanctioned. As a result the match boiled over and at that point it was impossible to get the "toothpaste back in the tube"

Read other questions answered by Referee Joe McHugh

View Referee Joe McHugh profile

Answer provided by Referee Peter Grove

Hi Doug,
I haven't seen the game in question so I can't comment on the specifics but as a matter of law the free kick must always be awarded for the first offence committed. So if a Team A player commits an offence and then a Team B player commits an offence, Team B would be the ones granted the free kick.

Read other questions answered by Referee Peter Grove

View Referee Peter Grove profile

Ask a Follow Up Question to Q# 35010
Read other Q & A regarding Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct

Soccer Referee Extras

Did you Ask the Ref? Find your answer here.

Enter Question Number

If you received a response regarding a submitted question enter your question number above to find the answer

Offside Question?

Offside Explained by Chuck Fleischer & Richard Dawson, Former & Current Editor of AskTheRef

This web site and the answers to these questions are not sanctioned by or affiliated with any governing body of soccer. The free opinions expressed on this site should not be considered official interpretations of the Laws of the Game and are merely opinions of AskTheRef and our panel members. If you need an official ruling you should contact your state or local representative through your club or league. On AskTheRef your questions are answered by a panel of licensed referees. See Meet The Ref for details about our panel members. While there is no charge for asking the questions, donation to maintain the site are welcomed! <>