The Professional Referee Organization (PRO) offered a little bit of insight into a head-scratching event late in Saturday's 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake in their weekly look at rules and interpretations for their Play of the Week.
Almost two minutes into stoppage time, referee Silviu Petrescu stops play to replace an apparent flat ball. Upon receiving a new ball, Petrescu orders for a dropped ball. Petrescu asks Dynamo midfielder Andrew Wenger to take the dropped ball and kick towards the Real Salt Lake goalkeeper, though it appears Wenger originally believes it should be the Dynamo's possession. He kicks the ball out of bounds, and Petrescu asks for another dropped ball, this time with Collen Warner. Warner then plays the dropped ball to Eric Alexander, who plays the ball out of bounds and receives a yellow card from Petrescu. Petrescu then decides to drop the ball to Joao Plata of RSL and play continues from there.
In PRO's reflections on the play and the Laws of the Game, they ask "Can referees dictate who can contest a dropped ball and can they insist where the players play the ball? The answer, quite simply, is no." In their interpretation of Law 8, which deals with "The Start and Restart of Play," any player is eligible to contest a dropped ball, and once the ball touches the ground players have the right to play it as they choose.
With the Dynamo up 1-0 on the road and RSL pushing hard for a goal in stoppage time, time was already at a premium. The entire proceedings—from the time Petrescu asked for a new ball until Plata resumed play—took an extra minute and 12 seconds, which were added onto the end of the initial allotment of four minutes at the end of the match. PRO notes that a contested dropped ball between the teams (which may have been more fair to begin with when taking into account where the ball is at the time of the initial whistle) or simply allowing an RSL throw-in after Wenger knocked the ball out would have been less time-consuming.
Ultimately, the play didn't have an effect on the final scoreline but did earn Alexander an unnecessary yellow card and left plenty of people confused.