Cookie Consent by Free Privacy Policy Generator Skip to content

PRO admits error in Reign-Thorns handball penalty

Sadly, it won't change the result.

Last Updated
2 min read
© Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

It’ll be small comfort to Seattle Reign fans to know that the Professional Referee Organization agrees that the penalty called on Reign defender Sofia Huerta during last weekend’s match against Portland was a mistake. PRO admitted to the error in their weekly review of VAR calls from the prior matchday.

In the 75th minute, with the Reign trailing the Thorns by one goal, Thorns forward Payton Linnehan had the ball in the Reign box with Huerta defending her tightly. Linnehan attempted a shot, which replays showed ricocheted off Huerta’s foot before striking her arm. Linnehan half-heartedly raised her hand, hoping for a handball call, but play continued as referee Abdou Ndiaye waved it off, saying that Huerta’s arm was in a natural position, and the Reign recovered the ball and headed toward midfield.

The clips shown during the review and conversation between the referee and VAR booth can be heard starting at 6:30 of this video:

As heard in the clip, VAR official Adorae Monroy and AVAR Kaili Terry were reviewing the incident as play continued and decided that Huerta’s arm was away from her body and thus created a barrier, and requested that Ndiaye stop play to initiate a review. After calling him over to the screen, they confirmed that there was no offside in the build-up to the incident and proceeded to show him several angles to demonstrate that Huerta’s arm was outstretched.

At one point in the review, Ndiaye can be heard questioning the decision to review the play, asking, “Doesn’t the ball touch her foot first?” to which Monroy responds “I do not have the ball touching her foot first”, even as the clip shows exactly that happening. Ultimately Ndiaye was convinced to call the penalty and issue a caution to Huerta, and then Laura Harvey also received a caution for dissent after Sophia Smith buried the ensuing kick.

In PRO’s estimation, not only was Huerta’s arm in a justifiable position given her body movement, but also the fact that the ball deflected off her foot first and changed direction before striking her arm meant that a penalty should not have been called.