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Passive offsides is confounding, Tranquillo Barnetta's free kick shows why

The Professional Referee Organization got it right, but now they're getting it wrong.

Philadelphia Union vs Orlando City SC
Tranquillo Barnetta hits a free kick against Orlando City SC.
Trey Madara / Brotherly Game

There has been a significant amount of chatter about the Tranquillo Barnetta free kick, especially with the report from the Professional Referee Organization (PRO) that says the goal should not have counted. That PRO is acknowledging their shortcomings is a good step, however in this instance they don't need to apologize for getting the call right.

There are two points of contention with the legality of the goal - whether the Philadelphia Union's wall was offsides when Barnetta struck the ball and whether Orlando City SC's Joe Bendik was obstructed from viewing the shot. Here's what constitutes offsides according to FIFA's rules:

A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:

  • interfering with play or
  • interfering with an opponent or
  • gaining an advantage by being in that position

So let's look at those bullet points. Did any of those players interfere with the play? Clearly they did not. No one touched the ball other than Barnetta. Did any of those players interfere with an opponent? Neither Bendik nor any of his teammates were touched by anyone on the wall, so that does not apply. Did they gain an advantage by being in that position? They did not, as again none of them were within range to touch the ball or any defenders. They also did not obstruct Bendik's view of the ball when the ball was struck. Watch the video of the incident below:

Let's stop it the instant Barnetta's foot touches the ball - the moment the play begins. Look at the positioning of the players in this screenshot:

Screenshot from UniMás replay.

There is clearly a gap between the Union player in the center of the screen (Keegan Rosenberry?) and either the other Union player (possibly CJ Sapong) or the Orlando defender. It's not a huge gap, but it's enough that Bendik can see that the ball is being struck and by whom.

Since there is no obstruction and none of the players touch the ball, the offsides shouts are moot. The goal stood, and rightfully so.