We've all watched and rewatched Montreal Impact forward Dominic Oduro's goal from last Saturday's match. As Orlando City goalkeeper Tally Hall went down to make the save, the Impact striker toe poked the secured ball into the back of the net. Orlando, most Montreal fans, and MLS "Instant Replay" commentator Simon Borg have all collectively decided the goal should not have stood.
So, arguing the goal's legitimacy isn't important at this point. Arguing for the safety of goalkeepers is, however. Looking over social media after the game I came across someone arguing that it is Oduro's job as a striker to push the limits of the rules while searching for a goal for his team. Normally I don't let social media posts about controversial calls get to me -- we all have opinions, and most of them are tinted from our perspective as fans.
This one shocked me a bit to be honest, as it seemed the comment meant to encourage strikers to attack goalkeepers and make referees make the call against them. I've got a few problems with that, and with the no-call by referee Edvin Jurisevic.
I've got some perspective on this, since I spent a solid portion of my life playing soccer as a striker. While coaches and trainers always encouraged poaching easy goals, you knew attacking the goalkeeper directly was strictly forbidden. From my position as an attacking player, goalkeepers have always been given (rightfully so) protections. If you recall, anytime you see a goalkeeper come off his line to slide into an oncoming player, the attacking player usually makes a last minute deliberate leap over the oncoming goalkeeper.
While these protections for the goalkeeper are written into the laws of the game. Most comments on the goal have referred to the rule arguing that "when a goalkeeper has gained possession of the ball with his hands, he cannot be challenged by an opponent" (Page 113). While this is the right place to look, as a former striker I'd also consider this law: "Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball...with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play" (Page 118).
I'm not arguing that Oduro was intentionally endangering Tally Hall, or that he should have been sent off. There does not appear to be any malice in the toe poke out of Hall's hands. I would argue that playing a ball while the goalkeeper is on the ground (and in possession of the ball) is a dangerous play, intentional or not.
While this is my take as a striker, The Mane Land also happens to have a former Division I college goalkeeper on staff as well. I reached out to staff writer Brent Petkus for his take on the play. Here are his thoughts:
Tally Hall in this situation has to own the goal area. He does very well to dive to deny the cross. He knows he can't parry the ball into the penalty area because if he does, he gives up a juicy rebound. Hall does well to hold the ball but as he goes to secure the ball he brings the ball closer to his legs. This gives the illusion that the ball is not being secured properly to a referee who is out of position and 35 yards behind the play.
When teaching young goalkeepers, coaches will stress that a goalkeeper should have three walls to secure a diving save. The top hand should apply pressure down on top of the ball while the other hand is directly behind the ball pinning it to the ground. This creates three walls for the goalkeeper to minimize a ball being kicked out of their hands. Hall does well to create the three walls as he tries to pin the ball against the turf.
The second item goalkeeper coaches will teach is always have a back-up plan when making a save. This is why when a goalkeeper attempts to catch a ball, they use their footwork to get their body behind the ball to make a save, because if their hands fail them, the ball will hit the goalkeeper's body and make the save. On this opportunity the legs should be the back-up plan.
When Hall makes the save, his legs come up off the ground, leaving Oduro the opportunity to poke at the ball. There should be no fault to Tally Hall, as this is an overcritical analysis of the play. This situation happens to goalkeepers all the time in their career.
Strikers and goalkeepers are by nature rivals. This eternal battle between those who try to score and the only player on the field given special rules to protect the goal is highly regimented by both the laws of the game and individual training. Goalkeepers are given special protections due to the dangerous nature of their role on the field.
These laws governing goalkeeper safety allow these players to perform their function on the field without injury. A no-call, an allowed goal, and a mindset saying "strikers are meant to test the limits of the rules" all provide an impetus for MLS strikers to continue endangering opposing players and ignore the laws that govern the game.