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Should Philadelphia's Game-Winning Free Kick Have Counted?

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According to FIFA rules, Tranquillo Barnetta's game-winning goal should not have counted. But is the rule completely straightforward?

Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

If Orlando City's game against the Philadelphia Union wasn't enough of a downer to Lions fans, this may dig the proverbial knife even deeper.

As was pointed out by MLSsoccer.com's Brian Dunseth, the Union's game-winning free kick, which beat Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik, should technically not have even counted.

See the video below for the explanation that Dunseth gave.

First off, according to the offside rule in the official FIFA rule book, Law 11-17, "Interfering with an opponent means preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent's line of vision or challenging an opponent for the ball." The rule goes on to say that "the opponent must be reasonably close to the play so that the blocking, deceiving or distracting makes a difference."

Breaking it down, there are a few questions to ask here. First, was Joe Bendik obstructed by the Union wall? The short answer is yes, he was. Looking more closely at the replay in the screenshot below, you can more or less see the perspective of Bendik's view from goal after the ball came over the wall.

This shot is just after Barnetta kicked the ball. From this view, Bendik wouldn't be able to fully tell who actually kicked the ball with the Union wall in the way. Since both Barnetta and Leo Fernandes were lined up to take the free kick, Bendik had to wait a split second to see who was going to take the shot and, with the Union wall in the way, that only hindered him more from reading where the ball was coming from. His reaction is late as well, since he can't see the ball until after it's over the wall. So, in this case, Bendik's line of vision was obstructed.

Here is another angle of the Union wall. The first shot is right before the kick was taken and the second picture is right after it left Barnetta's boot. The wall was clearly still in an offside position, despite trying to time its run to be onside once the ball was kicked.

Now here is the picture just after the kick. 

This could have easily been avoided if Orlando City hadn't given away the free kick in the first place. Head Coach Adrian Heath would have most likely said something in regards to not giving the Union the chance in the first place, when asked about this specific call. Darwin Cerén, who committed the foul, wasn't helped by the lack of effort from Antonio Nocerino, and when Cerén was forced to step in, it gave Philly the chance it needed to take the lead.

Going back to the offside call that wasn't made, it isn't necessarily a clear-cut call. The offside rule in general is very much up for debate and interpretation, so the fact that neither the assistant referee or referee Jair Marrufo made the call isn't too surprising. They determined that the Union wall did not obstruct the goalkeeper and that it was a legal play. The fact that Marrufo talked to the wall before the kick was possibly to mention the offside rule to the players.

What's your opinion on the ruling? Should the goal have counted? Let us know in the comments below.