If I had $10 for every time I have been right about a goalkeeper who needs to “just stand there” on a penalty kick, I could quit my night job as shot boy at the local ladies club. (Kidding about that one … as far as you know, anyway.)
Here’s the thing. For as long as most of us have been alive, goalkeepers have known that the best chance to save a penalty kick is to pick a side, go that way and hope Lady Luck is on your side. That was the conventional wisdom, anyway.
Only, I say it’s not really true anymore. This is outdated thinking, in my opinion. It’s like “margarine is better for you than butter.” You aren’t still eating margarine, by the way, are you?
In recent years, so many penalty kick takers tend to hit the ball right down the middle. I see it all the darn time. I look at the goalkeeper and say to myself, “Just stand there!” And sure enough, they go flailing this way or that while the PK does nothing more than push a ball straight ahead 12 yards.
I saw it a couple of weeks ago when an Aussie PK taker banged one down the middle against Germany. If the goalkeeper had just stood there it would have conked him right in the forehead.
I saw it last week in MLS, when Vancouver’s Eric Hassli barreled one right down the middle against New England’s young back-stopper. (In that case, it worked solidly against Hassli. If he had missed the PK, he wouldn’t have subsequently removed his shirt and collected a second yellow card, thereby ensconcing himself as one of the silliest creatures ever to wear an MLS uniform ... you can see the previous blog post for more on that.)
Then over the weekend, D.C. United’s Charlie Davies chipped the ball with ample cheek, right down the middle as L.A. Galaxy goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts flung himself to the right.
Imagine this for a second: what if Davies had scouted Ricketts and knew the L.A. goalkeeper sometimes doesn’t pick a side. What if Davies knew Ricketts occasionally just stood there. I mean, the man is long. His wingspan, that is. When he stretches his arms side-to-side, it looks like he’s protecting goal with a damn helicopter blade. That’s intimidating for a shooter – unless he knows the goalkeeper always picks a side.
How confident might Davies be in the 90th minute, his team trailing by a goal at home, if he knew he had to actually hit a good shot? As it was, he just had to make sure he didn’t slip and pull a Baggio, knocking the ball hopelessly over goal. That’s not a big ask for a professional soccer player.
I’m telling you guys … just stand there! If the shooter can pick a side and hit a decent effort, they are going to score. There’s not much you can do about it. But for the love of Gordon Banks, make ‘em work a little for it!