22 July 2013

How Matthew Foerster got stoppage time correct in the RSL-KC game

I didn’t watch the Real Salt Lake-Sporting Kansas City game on Saturday night. But when I got ready to turn in for the night, my Twitter feed told me the game was still 1-1 in stoppage time, with RSL down a man, and I figured I’d check out the climax.

Sporting Kansas City had just enough time to score the winning goal.
What I got, of course, was one of the latest, most dramatic goals of the year, as Kansas City’s Ike Opara headed in a corner kick in the seventh minute of stoppage time to give Sporting the win. Much of the post-game controversy surrounded the referee, Matthew Foerster, including both his performance throughout the game and why 5 minutes of stoppage time had been announced, but 7 minutes and 20 seconds were played.

Having not watched the game, I cannot speak to Foerster’s performance in terms of fouls and cards. But having watched (and now re-watched, with a stopwatch) stoppage time, I can tell you his assessment of stoppage time was spot-on.

Stoppage time exists because the referee stops the game clock (either literally, via his watch, or mentally, by noting the time) at certain points during the game. These stoppages can be for injuries, goals, cards, substitutions, excessive time-wasting, and the like. Every game has stoppage time, so most of these are not unusual. The amount of stoppage time announced by the fourth official (in this case, a big ‘5’ was displayed to the stadium) is a minimum, and is announced as such in the stadium by the public address announcer.

So why were RSL and KC still playing in the eighth minute of stoppage time on Saturday? Because there were stoppages during stoppage time. By my calculation, in terms of actual playing time, Saturday’s game had 4 minutes and 58 seconds of stoppage time. Right on the money.

Here’s how I figured it:

In the 92nd minute, Real Salt Lake midfielder Javier Morales was fouled and fell to the ground. Shortly afterward, he grabbed his knee and rolled over. I stopped my watch at 91:14, when he first rolled over. The referee, Foerster, came over to Morales without blowing his whistle, so I can’t say for sure when he stopped the game clock, but I know that Foerster re-blew his whistle at 92:05, calling for the game to resume. That’s 51 seconds.

In the 96th minute on the television clock (about 94:24 on mine), Foerster breaks up a scuffle between players from both teams in the penalty area. He blows his whistle to stop play at 95:15 and restarts play at 95:58. That’s 43 seconds.

So while the game clock read 95:58, and Real Salt Lake fans were thinking the game should have been over a minute earlier, the amount of stoppage time played was well under five minutes. In fact, Graham Zusi struck the corner kick at 4:46 on my watch, and Opara’s header found the back of the net at 4:49.

I stopped my watch for another 45 seconds during the Kansas City celebration, although we cannot be sure for how long Foerster stopped his, which leads us to our final total of 7:17 on the television clock, but 4:59 on the actual clock.

So everyone is entitled to have their say about Foerster's decisions and game management, but I hope they will re-consider their criticism of the amount of stoppage time. Five minutes was announced, and five minutes was played.

Here’s a spreadsheet summarizing the stoppage time played:

Start timeEnd timeElapsed


  1. So does that mean each time a player is on the ground rolling around that the ref should add that time to the stoppage time? if that's the case why isn't stoppage time in most games consistently above 10 minutes?

  2. Shouldn't there also have been more stoppage time in the first half than in the second half?

  3. Impressive, glad someone did this.

  4. Thanks for doing this.

  5. I can see your understanding and calculation of time in the stoppage time of this game. However, it is not quite that literal of timing. If it was, there would be a LOT more stoppage time in EVERY game. You can't tell me that the ref stops his watch for every single foul, scuffle, card, injury, etc. Yes, that is the way it is set up, but it isn't a perfect one to one comparison. For example, in the first half, Kamara was down for nearly 3 minutes at the beginning of the game. There was just over 4 minutes of stoppage time played so that would mean that during the entire rest of the first half, there was only 1 minute of stoppage. There is no way. There were many other "injuries" that happened in the first few minutes of the game and then there were the 2 more yellows dished out. That would all add up to more than 4 minutes and 20 seconds of stoppage time that was played.

    There is not doubt that Wingert should have received a red card in the first minute. There is no doubt that the ref was horrible. That is the point that RSL and Jason Kreis are trying to make. No one from RSL is arguing the additional suspension for Wingert and therefor they feel that the red is probably what he should have received. It is the inconsistency that is SO frustrating and the fact the there definitely should have been a much more experienced ref at that game with so much on the line and with a huge crowd in attendance.