Despite misses, Curtin retains trust in Union's penalty-kick process
Jim Curtin Wednesday more or less regarded the failures from the spot as an anomaly, and the numbers reinforce that. For one, there’s this stat on Revs goalie Bobby Shuttleworth, which is pretty impressive:
Bobby Shuttleworth the fourth GK in MLS history to save two PKs in a game (Tony Meola - 2002, D.J. Countess - 2003, David Ousted - 2015).— Nicholas Rosano (@nicholasrosano) March 20, 2016
But even more illustrative of Sunday’s oddity is this stat: The Union missed as many PKs against the Revs as they had in their first six-plus seasons of MLS play. Here’s the breakdown by year, including John Hackworth’s infamously lamentable PK-free year of 2013, in which the Union scored on 20 of 22 penalty kicks awarded in MLS play until Sunday:
The two misses were Michael Farfan against Sporting Kansas City in 2012 and Maurice Edu last year against Seattle, equaling the number of failed conversions proffered by Ilsinho and Sebastien Le Toux Sunday. For the Frenchman, it was his first missed PK in 14 attempts with the Union.
The process for selecting shooters, in the game and in shootouts, is necessarily democratic, Curtin said, something players expressed last season after prevailing in the shootout at Red Bull Arena in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal. Here’s Curtin Wednesday:
“When Seba’s on the field, I think his 13-for-13 prior to that takes (precedence). I’m a big believer in, it’s feel. I’m not a coach that designates who that guy is before the game because you can have an instance where say, Ilsinho on the play that he takes the first PK, say he gets killed and he’s maybe not feeling quite right, so I would never say it’s one person that does it. I trust my players in that situation. It’s unfortunate that we missed two. I don’t think that’ll happen again. It’s a unique one. At the same time, I leave it up (to them). I think there’s a discussion maybe about CJ (Sapong) taking it maybe on the hat trick. But at that point, you still want your best guy taking that, and at the end of the day, I still think that’s Seba when he’s on the field. (Roland) Alberg came up to me after the game and said he’s on penalties from now on, so when there’s a mistake, everybody wants to jump up and grab a hold of it. We had a good laugh after the game with Ilsinho and Seba. … It’s in the moment. I’m a believer in, trust your players in that regard. It’s not like basketball, hot hand kind of thing, because it’s different, it’s a dead-ball situation. So I’ll leave that to them, but hopefully it’ll never happen again.”
In practice, that usually means conversations on the field for players to sort it out. That allows extenuating factors – like Sapong being on a hat trick – to factor into the logic.
You’ll notice on the second PK won by Sapong that Le Toux makes a beeline for the ball. Not shown was a brief conversation between he and Sapong that apparently settled who’d take the kick.
Whatever transpired there or in conversations held around Ilsinho’s penalty in the first half, for which Le Toux was not on the field, resolved the question. And while twice Sunday it didn’t arrive at the right answer to fire home the spot kick, it was still a display of what Curtin deems to be the right process.