Something happened during Sunday’s NWSL clash between Angel City and Gotham that I don’t think any observer of the sport of soccer can claim to have seen before. In the 12th minute of the game, a Gotham attack ended with the ball pinging off the Angel City post and crossing the goal line. But instead of being awarded an obvious goal, the referee ruled that Gotham should … take a corner?
There are a couple of things at play here. The first being that the NWSL does not have the same goal-line technology that is used by leagues like the Premier League, which means it remains up to the referees, and not a computer system that can calculate the precise moment the ball fully crosses the goal line, to determine whether or not a goal should be given. If the NWSL did have goal-line technology, a sensor on the referee’s wrist would have buzzed as soon as the ball crossed the line, and that would be that.
And yet that still doesn’t explain why the referee gave Gotham a corner kick. If the call on the field was that the ball did not cross the goal line, then play should have been allowed to continue with Angel City’s keeper in possession of the ball. The fact that a corner was awarded instead means that only one conclusion can be drawn: The officials on the field believed that when Ifeoma Onumonu’s shot deflected off an Angel City defender, it proceeded to fly over and beyond the crossbar of the goal before somehow, after sailing out of play, bending its way back onto the field and tucking inside the far post. I don’t think that can happen! I am certainly no physicist, but a soccer ball taking an s-shaped flight path over such a short distance feels like an unlikely outcome.
The strange call stung double for Gotham, as it erased what should have been a 1–0 lead and sucked all the momentum out of their attack. Just a few minutes later, Savannah McCaskill scored a ridiculously cool solo goal for Angel City that featured a nutmeg and a blast at the near post:
Angel City netted two more goals within the next 15 minutes, and that was pretty much the game. Gotham managed to pull one back in the second half, but all they got to take home from this one was a loss and a memory of one of the weirder referee decisions that has ever been made.