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Passive Offside will always create controversy

When an referee makes the judgement that a player that does not touch the ball was cause for offside there will always be controversy.

Two of those players were onside when the ball was struck. The other was not. How involved in the play was he?
Two of those players were onside when the ball was struck. The other was not. How involved in the play was he?

If you think that the goal against Seattle by UANL Tigres was offside you could be right. But you would only be right if you are talking about that creature called "passive offside." This is the case where a player affects play without touching the ball.

Sigi Schmid made an impassioned case that the goal against Seattle Sounders FC in the CONCACAF Champions League match was one of those cases. He may even be right. As a partisan it is easy to side with him. But it is a rule that is full of nuance and judgement and nearly impossible to apply evenly. In a reverse of circumstances Seattle fans would be in an uproar if that goal was taken off the board. And they would be right to be so.

But, that rule and interpretation must remain. Because if it is loosened Schmid's worse case scenario becomes reality.

"If that's not offside, then as a defense you can never push out anymore," Schmid continued. "You might as well say anybody can stand offsides as long as they don't touch the ball. Then you have to alter how you're going to coach in those situations."

That would be a significant change. Maybe because of Sigi's statement things get called a bit tighter on Tuesday night. That might not help the Sounders. They have plenty of speedy high line attacking players that already push the envelope regularly. Maybe it makes no change.

But, like most of the Laws of the Game, even partisans won't necessarily agree. In a long conversation about chance creation and prevention, home and road approaches to two-leg series and atmosphere Ezra Hendrickson mentioned that goal at one moment. It was at almost the exact same time that Sigi was talking about it to the other media at Friday's practice.

"I thought the goal might have been offside, but after looking again maybe he was onside," Ezra said.

If one could remove all identifiers and show that play to a large sample a significant portion, though not a majority, would probably call it offside because the most advanced Tigres player had an effect on what Gspurning was seeing and he could have been the target of the pass.

It is not a call that requires a riot (even a virtual one), instead it is a demonstration of how even the simple Laws are quite complex.

Passive Offside is a needed interpretation. But is also one that should be applied as infrequently as possible, even if it means your own club is down a goal.

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