We hate diving! Unfortunately, diving or “simulation” has long been the scourge of world soccer and FIFA has made repeated attempts, with varying degrees of success, to eradicate it from its competitions. MLS has also stated that it would not tolerate diving. In fact, back in 2011, following a suspension of a former D.C. United forward Charlie Davies for diving during a game between DC United and Real Salt Lake, MLS stated that “all instances of behavior that serve to deceive and that directly impact the game will be subject to severe discipline, including a fine, suspension or both.”
And at least one MLS referee is not standing idly by. In the last weekend’s game between DC United (again) and NY Red Bulls, Jorge Gonzales appropriately cautioned Freddy Adu for diving inside his opponent team’s penalty area. During the play at issue, as he dribbles between two Red Bulls defenders, Adu is seen dragging his foot inside the penalty area and falling, looking for a call from Mr. Gonzales, but making absolutely no contact with the Red Bulls players. Fortunately for the New York team, Adu’s theatrics did not go unnoticed or unpunished. And while this was a tough and very gutsy call, Mr. Gonzales got it absolutely right. See for yourself below.
Under the Laws of the Game, Mr. Gonzales was required to caution Adu. Indeed, Law 12 (Fouls & Misconduct) states that “a player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he” is guilty of “unsporting behavior.” According to IFAB’s interpretations of the Laws of the Game, unsporting behavior includes a player’s attempt to deceive the referee by faking a foul. Thus, “if a player … attempts to deceive the referee by … pretending to have been fouled (simulation),” he must be cautioned. In its 1999 decision explaining new amendments to the Laws of the Game, IFAB stated that “any simulating action anywhere on the field, which is intended to deceive the referee, must be sanctioned as unsporting behavior.” In its Advice to Referees, USSF also reiterated that a player who “fakes a foul (dives)” must be cautioned for unsporting behavior.
Since Adu received his first caution for a nasty foul on another Red Bulls player earlier in the game, this second yellow card resulted in his dismissal from the game.
Adu could hardly complain about any of the two yellow cards that he received. Indeed, his first caution was fully deserved as well. As you can see in the video below, Adu received his first caution for tackling the Red Bulls player from behind.
USSF has identified fouls from behind as automatically cautionable offences. In its Advice to Referees, it stated that if a player “commits a direct free kick foul while tackling for the ball from behind [even] without endangering the safety of an opponent,” he must be cautioned for “unsporting behavior.” (Emphasis added.) (Note: for those tackles from behind that do endanger the safety of an opponent or could be classified as “violent conduct”, automatic send off is required.)
We hope that that other MLS referees will take similarly decisive actions when they witness players faking or simulating fouls. We would also like to see the MLS Disciplinary Committee to take further action against Adu. This would certainly help to discourage others from diving and would send a strong message that the league condemns the practice and will take all steps necessary to eradicate it from its game.