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Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath cautions of overemphasis on diving

Adrian Heath Orlando City 12

Photo by Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports


ORLANDO, Fla. — Some called for penalty kicks. Others for simulation. Adrian Heath said they may have been neither.

Orlando City and New York City FC opened their seasons by playing to a 1-1 draw at the Citrus Bowl on Sunday, but a big talking point after the match was a number of plays in which Orlando players were deemed of diving.

On three separate instances, referee Alan Kelly showed Lions players yellow cards for what he believed to be simulation. The first came on a play in the penalty area by Brek Shea in the 29th minute, followed by one involving Kevin Molino near midfield in the 40th and another that saw Cristian Higuita go down in the 18-yard box in the 78th.

While NYCFC players ardently shouted for Orlando’s players to be cautioned, the home crowd of 62,000-plus clamored for penalties. Heath, however, thought that play could have just resumed without either bookings or penalty kicks.

“I think we’re making the game really, really difficult for referees. I really do,” said the Orlando City head coach. “It doesn’t mean that every time somebody falls over it’s simulation. It’s something that we’re going to have to be really, really careful about because making decisions is hard within split second but then having to think, ‘Did he try to dive? Did he not? We’re just making it more difficult than it actually is.”

MLS has tried to really crack down on simulation in recent years, even retroactively punishing players who got away with dives in matches. It is something the league wants to weed out of the game, and that referees are studying constantly.

Still, Heath believes there may be an overemphasis on it all.

“You look at the one with Kevin Molino, he’s actually been pushed and tried to stay on his feet and he does fall over and he gets booked for simulation,” said Heath. “I’d like to see Cristian Higuita’s one again in the penalty area. From where I was it look like he got touched, but we’ll have to have a look at it again to determine.

“I’m not having a go at the referees. I think we’re making life more difficult for them. It’s hard enough as it is without every time having to guess what the players are thinking.”

NYCFC forward David Villa – who suffered a foul that resulted in a red card for Orlando centerback Aurelien Collin – echoed Heath’s sentiments that referees don’t have it easy.

“I don’t really like analyzing the referees. They have a tough job,” said Villa when asked about the officiating. “I know a lot of times we make life difficult for them on the field, especially me, due to the heat of the battle. But they have a tough job, just like us. Mistakes happen. Like I said, I don’t like to talk poorly of the referees.”


  1. I for one was thrilled with each of the decisions. Kudos to the ref. Diving is prevalent for one reason only: to now, the benefits of diving (potentially getting a PK) far outweighed the costs (none.) If the costs go up that calculation changes and we will see less diving.

    Having said that, I clicked on this article expecting to be mad at what Heath had to say, but in fact his comments were very measured and reasonable.

  2. While we’re at it, let’s ban the “hands to the face” nonsense when there has been no contact anywehre near the face. (There’s a famous clip of a Brazilian player who gets tapped somewhere around his middle and then literally leaps and falls to the ground, covering his face with both hands.) That is almost always pure embellishment.

  3. Didn’t see the game, so this is a general comment. I’m often a critic of MLS, but I like to give credit when it’s due, and I’m proud of MLS for taking the lead on stamping out simulation with policies like retroactive punishment, as a nod to the difficulty of judgment in the moment.

    Oh, and #RedBullOut.

  4. If the referee thinks a dive took place, that ought to be a red – first offense. On the second, it should be a red and a suspension from the next game. Third, suspension for the next two.

    Yes, that’s harsh, and it puts a lot of responsibility and pressure on center refs… okay, so what? Giving an undeserved PK in the second half of a tied game is harsh, too, and a lot of ref responsibility, etc., etc. The diving has to go away, and it won’t until people get serious about making it go away.

  5. We need a real definition of what a dive is.

    Clearly it is a dive when there us no contact…BUT

    Is it a dive when a player goes to ground when there is contact?
    Is it a dive when a player goes to ground when there is contact plus dramatic falling?

    I don’t have a dog in the fight … O-town nor Sheik FC mean anything to me. So I’ll make mu judgements as objectively as I can.

    Brek Shea was clipped on his right leg when he got a step on Jacobson. Their legs hit and he went down like a sack of potatoes. Is that a dive?

    Molino was pushed while dribbling and was impeded after he nicked the ball around the defender before being up-ended. His fall was dramatic in part due to his speed. Is that a Dive?

    Higuita (sp.?) was possibly tripped when breaking into the box by Brovsky and went down as soon as his run was inhibited by Brovsky’s right leg. He also fell in dramatic fashion. Was it a dive?

    From my point of view not one was a dive as defenders made contact or atempted to impede the players in each circumstance only for each player to embellish the contact in their circumstances.

    • I’ll add that everyone who thinks people are always embellishing their falls should try the following:

      Go to a large field of soft grass with two friends. Have one take video of the proceedings. Run full speed toward the second and have him trip you as you try to go by him. Then go review the tape.

      We tend to spend a lot of time talking about how someone “ought” to fall, when most of us have never looked how we would fall in the same spot. Nit picking to say the least.

      • hahaha great point bro, i really hope the people who think they all dove would do this. I’d love to watch those vids

      • Come on. I will admit it is harder to stay on your feet than it might look to non-playing fans. But there is a difference between someone being brought down or even someone tripping over grass, and someone trying to make it look like he was brought down. A lot of the time anyway; sometimes it is hard to tell, and that’s when a no call is the right choice.

        A big truth teller is what does the player do after he falls. If he looks to quickly get back on his feet in case he can still influence the play, it probably was no foul and no dive. When a player flails and loses all interest in everything on the field except the center ref, there was either a foul or a dive, and most of the time you can tell which.

      • Actually, I gotta disagree with you on that. You’re talking a lot about work effort, not necessarily cause. When a player jumps back up and tries to get involved again, it’s because they have a good work ethic (something I wholeheartedly approve of). When a player does what Shea did, which is recognize that the ball went out and take his time collectively picking himself up, then his isn’t necessarily diving or calling for a foul.

        Even when we talk about players pulling their legs out in anticipation of contact, it’s not always a dive. David Villa in the same game started to pull his feet out as Collin came in, because he knew he was going to get clobbered and that it would hurt. He did get clobbered, and it probably did hurt, and I don’t fault him at all for trying to lessen the impact. If the same situation happens, but Collin manages to pull out of the tackle, we’re all sitting here calling Villa a diver as a result. What Villa did in response to a coming tackle would be the same, but our interpretation would be totally different. How’s Villa at fault for that?

        I’m not saying there aren’t players who dive. There are plenty of them (I’m looking at you, Robben) and they are cheats who should be punished. I’m also not saying that when a player pulls his feet up and flings himself to the ground when the tackler never got closer than 2 feet away and writhes on the ground or bounces up brandishing a card that he’s not embellishing. I’m just saying that I think the conversation among MLS fans seems to have shifted to how a person falls and reacts as if there’s only one correct way to respond to contact from an opposing player. And most of those responding don’t have any idea just how hard it is to stay on your feet when your heels get clipped at full speed, or how hard it is to not pull your legs out when your brain is sure you’re going to collide with another player’s leg.

  6. We could debate the merits of each individual call. Or we could simply rejoice, make March 8th “Alan Kelly Day,” and wave this referee’s performance in the face of Eurosnobs in perpetuity. Three simulation cards handed out in one game is utterly unheard of in the sport of soccer, or football, or futbol, or whatever you want to call it, and on this day I am proud – PROUD, SIR! – to be an American. An Irish American no less! My gran is dancing a jig at wee Alan’s rescuing of the sport from the hands of the feckless Euros.

    There is a reason our nation is great, while Europe is mired in a century long death spiral. It is diving, and we will stamp it out the same way we stamped out communism! All hail Sir Alan Kelly! (Irish) American hero!

  7. Simple solution…every PK/YC for simulation is reviewed by the league, with an automatic three games suspension for a clear dive.
    Kelly nailed all of the calls, but as a ref I know how incredibly hard it those calls are to get right. And with the current risk/reward, players know that diving is usually a good tactical move. That needs to be stopped.

  8. The sooner players come to realize diving isnt a skill and isnt tolerated, the better. We fight a uphill battle so i am okay with them error on the side of anti-diving.

  9. The thing that confuses me is if you really are concerned about simulation why wouldn’t you call it outside of the box? If a player is at midfield rolling around on the ground after minimal contact give them a card.

  10. This is an easy fix. Called penalties should be reviewed before the kick is taken to ensure there is no dive (and to ensure the foul was actuallly in the area; the severity of the foul should be irrelevant). If there is uncontrvertible evidence of a dive, the diver gets a straight red and the other team gets a goal kick. Outside of the area, the ref should show a Blue card if he thinks there is a dive (subtle reference to water). Blue cards automatically get reviewed after the game. If it was a dive, the player get suspended for the next game. A ref should be given discretion to give a yellow if he shows mutliple Blue cards on a player in one game, but cannot give a yellow for only one such call. Above punishes true dives severely enough to discourage them, but not in a way that effects the game if the ref misses the call.

    • We can’t review calls, we don’t have the benefit of replay. FIFA hasn’t approved it, no league can do it, period. Lobby FIFA if you want replay.

  11. I only saw the first two. They were clear dives. Shea completely embellished. Molino saw an outstretched legs and stretched his own leg to contact the defender and tripped himself. Both were clear yellows as far as I’m concerned. They were attempts to con the ref.

    • I’ll include copy from a reply I made above:

      The Molino call was dead wrong. BUT, it took me three replays and slowing it down with a DVR to get it right, so I understand why the ref got it wrong. Three players involved, Molino, Krovsky, and another NYC player. The other NYC player actually rakes his studs down Molino’s Achillies, giving him a flat tire and pushing his leg out, where it makes contact with Krovsky. To the ref, it probably looked like Molino threw his leg to the side to create the contact with Krovsky, but it was actually the contact from the other NYC player that caused it. He was tripped from behind.

    • See this is one thing that worries me. Someone trips you that’s actually a foul even if you play it up. You playing it up shouldn’t be your own foul or simulation because we are protecting from poor tackles.

      You don’t get touched, that is faking. I think that should be a no call but at minimum the distinction needs to be made between fouls and faking. Going down like a ton of bricks from an actual foul should not be punished. The offender did wrong. That the victim hams it up just sells the foul.

      • Dead right. It amazes me how people want to talk more about how a player fell than whether the defender was in the wrong. I don’t like players selling the foul, at all, but it doesn’t change that a foul occurred. Simulation is acting like a foul occurred when one didn’t, not “over-reacting”.

        I also find it really distressing how these conversations never mention why selling a foul exists – to get the ref to call what they should have called in the first place. Everyone wants players to try to stay on their feet, but when they do, the refs usually don’t call the foul. If a player gets tugged and isn’t able to get the shot off because of it, whether or not they get the foul often depends entirely on whether they stay on their feet. A foul was committed either way, but if they stay up it’s not called; if they go down it often is.

  12. What about that nice grey area known as the no-call? Not every PK is a card call. Not every trip is a card. Conversely, not every time you don’t feel like making a call, is a simulation. I find it silly because you now have false negative simulation calls where someone has been tripped alongside the false positive tripping calls the simulation was supposed to address. Personally I think calling or not calling the play covers it and a particularly unsportsmanlike dive perhaps a card maybe even not. But if someone gets a trip from a hooked foot, that’s still a foul, and at minimum it’s not simulation. I’d really rather we were calling what happens and not trying to judge gradations of what doesn’t. I think that elevates the question at the same time it’s supposed to be stamped out. You can now have forwards rolling claiming to be tripped while the defender jabs a finger downward claiming nothing happened AND a card has to happen. I’m much more concerned with tackling. That gets you hurt much more often. Simulation overload only encourages this drama.

    • Well said. I thought the call on Shea was correct; the one on Molino was terrible as he was clearly being tripped after being pushed (lightly) and the call against Higuita; I think it should have either been a no call or a PK but certainly not a yellow for simulation. There wasn’t a lot of contact; but I believe he was tripped and didn’t over act his fall or anything silly like that. So the ref shoulld said play on and say there wasn’t much to it or call the PK.

      • I thought Brek recieved more contact then Molina did. Jacobson does clip Brek which usually causes someone to trip. he did embellish a bit. Molina, on replays, looked like he didn’t get touched.

      • I’m of the opinion simulation cards should only be handed out post-game. Once the league reviews calls, they can determine if player was touched or not and add a card to their tally if taking a dive. It’s nearly impossible to tell in real time if it’s simulation, can’t expect the referee to get those calls right in split seconds when we can barely tell in slomo sometimes.

      • Maybe, but the penalty for confirmed diving has to be severe.

        It must not be severe enough according to that game.

      • Molino totally dived yellow deserved
        Shea probably should have just been a no call
        Didn’t see the 3rd to be honest

      • NE fan here, just saying.

        Agree on Shea. The third was hard to see, but could easily have been a penalty.

        The Molino call was dead wrong. BUT, it took me three replays and slowing it down with a DVR to get it right, so I understand why the ref got it wrong. Three players involved, Molino, Krovsky, and another NYC player. The other NYC player actually rakes his studs down Molino’s Achillies, giving him a flat tire and pushing his leg out, where it makes contact with Krovsky. To the ref, it probably looked like Molino threw his leg to the side to create the contact with Krovsky, but it was actually the contact from the other NYC player that caused it. He was tripped from behind.

    • I would like to see you be able to make such distinctions on the field, with professional players, running at full speed, tired from making a sprint, not having the benefit of instant replay.

      Fans seem to just say these things like “but why can’t the refs call it exactly how I want them to.” Because you don’t know anything about reffing the game, you haven’t reffed the game at that level, you’re worthless.

      • What is wrong with people.

        I actually did ref a little way back when since my kid sister’s team needed someone to do their ref quota, so you’re not even factually right.

        And my basic point would be that the process should not be telescoped to the point every mistimed tackle is either a yellow or red for a foul or a yellow for simulation. The world is more complex than that and it is the pressure of simulation calls that creates the even higher drama than a tackle would already have. I’d prefer for the wiser and sharper referees to have more freedom to handle the play than feeling pressure to throw around cards, which I think tends to distort.

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