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Breaking down the two handball decisions in the NYCFC match

A look back at the referee decisions in Sunday’s thriller

Carl Gulbish

Another dramatic Philadelphia Union match has come to a close, and with it, dramatic refereeing decisions.

Of course, any article that goes into true depth with this game and the refereeing in it would take years to write (free Paulie Rushing). With that in mind, this breakdown will be limited to two possible handballs against the Union in the second half of play.

First, the handball against Kai Wagner to give NYCFC its game-tying penalty kick. This call didn’t go to VAR, and for good reason. The AR2 had a fantastic angle on Wagner’s raised arm, and made a good call.

Wagner’s arm is clearly making his body bigger, not to mention that the part of the arm that made contact was above his head. Per the IFAB, Wagner put himself in a position to make that handball offense when he slid down, and he paid the price.

You can make the argument (as Kevin Kinkhead did on Twitter) that handballs such as this shouldn’t result in a penalty kick. But that’s another discussion.

The second handball came in the dying seconds of the match, as Nathan Harriel tried to clear a ball from just inside the Union’s penalty area. The ball hits Harriel’s hand immediately after contact with Taty Castellanos’ foot.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no longer a rule about the timing over foot-hand contact; IFAB changed that a few years ago. Because of this, a ruling isn’t as black-and-white as the call against Wagner.

Harriel’s arm is clearly outstretched. However, his arm was pushed up and forwards by Castellanos leading up to the contact. And in a scrum to clear a ball, the referee has to ask how “unnatural” Harriel’s positioning is. This one is very unclear, and (unshockingly) subjective.

That’s the way that sports go sometimes. There isn’t always a clear answer. All the same, Philadelphia won’t mind picking up three points, no matter how it comes.