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Major League Soccer goes on the Attack

MLS Commissioner Don Garber has some new ideas for officials that could favor a more attacking game of soccer in the league in 2011.
MLS Commissioner Don Garber has some new ideas for officials that could favor a more attacking game of soccer in the league in 2011.

MLS commissioner Don Garber announced Friday in a press conference that the league will implement several officiating guidelines that should help teams and players establish a more attacking style of soccer in the U.S.

Details after the break...

Next season, look for the referees to hand out more cards and be more eager to pipe their whistle on anything that could smell like a studs-up challenge. This could be a poor omen for the Fire who have accumulated a red card in each of their last three preseason games.

We believe the man on the ball needs to be protected a lot more than they have been in the past. We're trying to discourage studs-up challenges in particular and have that studs up challenge be appropriately judged and punished by the referee. We're hoping that our officials will be more careful and more tentative on how they rule on that challenge.

Also look for repeat offenders to be judged more harshly, perhaps leading to some more timid defending. A referee's warning could certainly change a defender's state of mind if he believes his next challenge could easily earn him a yellow if not timed perfectly.

If a player keeps fouling an opposing player, he will receive a yellow card. We're also trying to reward attacking soccer, so that players that are subjected to frequent fouls, even those that are not called in favor of applying an advantage concept got to be better protected. We want them to be protected. Any player that's continually committing fouls against the same opposing player will be cautioned for persistent infringement where separately, those individual offenses wouldn't draw addition sanctions.

Set pieces could look a little more Mexican next season as well. Garber wants officials to begin using the dissolving spray to mark the spot of the foul, so officials can focus more on the wall, and the pushing and shoving in the box.

For set pieces near the penalty area, penalty kicks are more likely to be awarded against defending teams whose players hold, clutch, or drag down the attacking side's players in the box.

This is something that for me personally I really object to. I recall during the World Cup something that, in my view, there's way too much holding and pushing in the penalty area on set pieces. We're going to try to address that. Verbal warnings without punishment just haven't been working for us. We want to have an instance where players are held, clutched or dragged down in the box that penalty kicks are going to be called.

The offside rule is going to get a bit of a new look in the MLS too. The flags might feel a little heavier for the linesmen in 2011 as Garber hopes the benefit of the doubt will be given to the breaking attackers. This could pose a disadvantage to teams who depend heavily on the offside trap.

We're not trying to change the law, only to refresh, if you will, the prevailing approach to how that offside is called by our officials. We're hoping to have a benefit given to attacking soccer and that our officials will call offside if they're absolutely certain that an offside has occurred. In an instance when a player is judged to be offside and participates in the play, we hope to encourage the quicker use of the flag, so as to avoid any contact or collision.

Garber can suggest all he wants, but if the officials don't agree to change their style to meet these new expectations, this bark may have no bite. If the officials do begin to practice some of these new suggestions, perhaps MLS will see a few more cards as well as a few more goals.

In your opinion, are Garber's suggestions a good thing or a bad thing for the league?