The 90th minute. Tied at 2. Hartford Athletic sent a cross into the box, but Philadelphia Union II goalkeeper Mitch Budler caught it easily. It looked like this USL Championship match, with big playoff implications, could be a draw.
Budler threw the ball forward. What happened next was the rare sports highlight that was both an incredible feat and a hilarious blooper. Danny Barrera, who’d come on in the 82nd minute, stuck his foot out … and scored, giving Hartford the 3-2 win.
Barrera’s goal not only won the match, but it moved Hartford into first place in the league’s Group F with just one match to go.
It was a great goal, and very funny, and serves the Union right for renaming its minor-league club “Union II” from the much-cooler Bethlehem Steel. But was it legal? At least one blogger says it wasn’t. At SB Nation, Jake Catanese says the goal should’ve been disallowed.
“If obstructing a goalkeepers distribution was legal we would see this play multiple times a week. Since it’s not, and we don’t, we’re just going to have to remind everyone why I am and will always be a stickler for this play until morale improves. Simply, it’s a player safety issue – goalkeepers in possession (i.e. – holding the ball in their hands) need space and time to safely distribute the ball without worry of interference from opponents.… Attempting to challenge a goalkeeper in possession, regardless of contact with the ball or keeper, should be judged as a careless challenge and a caution issued to the offender to reinforce that this at the professional level.”
He even has receipts, pointing to a yellow card Bradley Wright-Phillips received in 2014 for a similar, if less spectacular, play, as well as a play where the Houston Dash’s Rachel Daly had a goal disallowed earlier this year. Catanese is being a bit of a stickler here—he says he coaches 10-year-olds and is frequently exhorting them to get away from the goalkeeper—and others disagree.
I suppose it boils down to whether you believe Budler was “in the process of releasing it” when he threw the ball. And I think I agree with Catanese—it should’ve been disallowed.
Sorry to ruin the highlight for you. But that’s the type of thing I like to do here at Defector dot com.