WAKEMED SOCCER PARK/ CARY—In soccer, it’s commonly called a penalty shootout. However, the Laws of the Game officially refer to the tiebreaker as “kicks from the penalty mark.” Regardless of the moniker, it’s a construct that’s long been the subject of intense fan debate. Some decry it as a contrived method to determine the winner of a hard-fought match, something akin to deciding a basketball game by a free throw shooting contest or an American football game by alternating 30-yard field goal attempts.
Others point out that after 120 minutes of exhausting play between teams allowed only three substitutions all game, you have to do something to crown a winner when necessary other than wait for the last man standing. Moreover, kicks from the mark aren’t simply a matter of shooting from close range into an empty net. Yes, the kick taker has a significant advantage. But he must also overcome fatigue, nerves and an agile goalkeeper looming between ball and net.
Kicks from the penalty mark were taken Saturday night between the Carolina RailHawks and Chivas USA of Major League Soccer to decide their fourth round tie in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. On one side was Dan Kennedy, the veteran Chivas USA goalkeeper and team captain now in his seventh season with the MLS club. On the other side was Scott Goodwin, the RailHawks’ 23-year-old backup goalkeeper making only his second start since joining the club this season. Goodwin, a former UNC Tar Heels standout, spent last year playing soccer in Iceland before latching onto the RailHawks’ squad.
But after a “shootout” that saw Goodwin make three saves, Kennedy make two, and both teams convert only five of their combined 14 kick attempts, a successful conversion by Daniel Jackson gave the RailHawks a win over Chivas USA 1-1 (3-2 shootout) to advance to the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup.
The win also extends the RailHawks’ home unbeaten streak to 22 games.
As expected, the RailHawks ran out a full-strength side against their MLS opponent. The huge exception, of course, was Goodwin, who learned only two days prior to Saturday’s match that he would play in place of injured starting goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald. Indeed, according to RailHawks manager Colin Clarke, Fitzgerald might miss the next six weeks of action due to a thumb injury suffered last week during training.
On the other hand, Chivas USA sat out several of their best-known starters, including Carlos Bocanegra and Mauro Rosales. Erick Torres, the team’s leading goalscorer and the third-ranked scorer in MLS, did not start but eventually entered the match in the 77th minute. Chivas was also without the services of Marvin Chavez and Oswaldo Minda, each of whom was called up by his respective country’s FIFA World Cup team.
However, Chivas did send out a number of regulars, including Kennedy, Eric Avila, Agustin Pelletieri and Bobby Burling. The remainder of the starting XI, however, comprised occasional starters in need of playing time and a chance to make an impression on manager Wilmer Cabrera.
After several minutes of uncertainty to start the game, it was the RailHawks that first found their offensive rhythm. The attacking quartet of Mike Grella, Zack Schilawski, Ty Shipalane and Cesar Elizondo found running and passing lanes in the attacking third. However, their final touch and finishing proved elusive.
An apparent Schilawski goal in the 20th minute was discarded for offside. In the 27th minute, Chivas forward Leandro Barrera found himself behind the RailHawks backline but onside. However, his 1v1 clash with Goodwin ended with the keeper parrying away Barrera’s shot.
Carolina struck first in the 29th minute. Some nice link-up play by the RailHawks ended with Schilawski on the receiving end of a pass into the box from Nazmi Albadawi. Schilawski deposited the ball past Kennedy for a 1-0 lead.
“Really good pass from Naz,” Schilawski said. “He made it look easier than it was. Instead of playing a through ball he played it right to my feet so I could take a touch past the defender, and I was able to finish.”
However, as the first half wore on the RailHawks appeared fatigued and their play became nervy. That resulted in a Chivas USA goal in the 40th minute. A defensive miscue by the RailHawks allowed forward Ryan Finley to get on the end of a delivery into the box from Tony Lochhead. Finley headed the ball past a helpless Goodwin to even the count at 1-1 entering halftime.
In the second half, Chivas USA solved the problem of Carolina’s open offensive lanes.
“We understood we were putting good pressure and blocking out wide,” Cabrera said. “But through the middle they were penetrating. So in the second half we closed the line, especially in the middle with our midfielders.”
The adjustment succeeded, as the RailHawks conjured only a single shot on target for the remainder of the match. Meanwhile, Chivas USA controlled possession and the shot count (24 to 10 for the game). But stout defending by Carolina’s entire back line complimented some tremendous play from Goodwin.
Clarke made several key decisions during the latter stages of regulation and during overtime. His first substitution in the 71st minute was to bring in Jackson for Shipalane, the RailHawks late-game hero of several past Open Cup matches who, in fairness, didn’t look terribly effective beyond the first half. Clarke then removed Elizondo for Enzo Martinez in the 98th minute.
“I thought (Ty) had a tough night against them,” Clarke said. “I thought they did a good job closing him down. Cesar had a little bit more joy against them, but I just decided to bring fresh legs on in those positions to see if we could get at them a little more.”
Absent their potent wingers, however, Carolina failed to muster many offensive opportunities in the 30 minutes of overtime. The only shot on target came in the 106th, when a meek boot in the box from Grella was easily gathered by Kennedy.
It fell to Goodwin and his back line to hold the Red-and-White at bay. By the end of 120 minutes, Goodwin had amassed a whopping 11 saves against the MLS visitors.
And that’s when the fun really began.
The kicks from the mark were taken toward the north end of the stadium into the teeth of a throng of RailHawks partisans. Nevertheless, Chivas took the early advantage after Albadawi’s first attempt for Carolina caromed off the post. After Eriq Zavaleta skied Chivas’ third attempt over the goal and Kennedy saved Carolina’s third kick taken by Kupono Low, Chivas held a 2-1 advantage.
Kennedy then took Chivas’ fourth attempt. It wasn’t the keeper’s first kick from the spot—he scored a goal on a true penalty kick against the Los Angeles Blues during last year’s U.S. Open Cup. However, this year the vet’s boot was blocked by Goodwin. After Schilawski buried his attempt, Goodwin then stoned an attempt by Avila.
Martinez—Goodwin’s teammate on the 2011 NCAA champion UNC Tar Heels—then squandered a chance to secure a RailHawks victory when he screwed his attempt wide right.
After Kristopher Tyrpak missed Chivas’ sixth attempt, late-substitute Aaron King’s chance to win the match for Carolina was blocked by Kennedy.
To open the seventh frame, Goodwin thwarted the attempt by Marco Delgado, Goodwin’s third save of the shootout. The third time proved a charm for Carolina, as Jackson calmly converted his kick to clinch the RailHawks’ win.
Goodwin said he just took each kick attempt one at a time.
“I don’t try to get bogged down in what the count is,” Goodwin said. “I really just try to think about who’s the next person coming up, where might they go, just trying to save the next one. You can’t make it too much a mental game.”
As opposed to those harboring pregame trepidation about Goodwin’s appearance in place of Fitzgerald (a group including yours truly), Clarke said he never held any doubt.
“We had Scott in last year for a little bit. We tried to sign him, but he decided he wanted to play abroad and experience that for a year. So we kept in touch with him. He’s a great keeper; you speak with anybody [who saw him] when he was in college … All his hard work has paid off.”
“I had an amazing experience in Iceland,” Goodwin recalled. “It was a great way for me to get a lot of games at a great level. Then coming here, I’ve absolutely loved it. The guys are great, the program is top-notch and playing here is something I’ll always remember.”
Clarke expects the 4,273 in attendance will remember the exciting match, as well.
“After some great soccer all day long on TV and then to come out and see a game like that sort of tops them all,” said an elated Clarke.
The RailHawks’ next match will be Tuesday, June 24 in the fifth round of the U.S. Open Cup. The RailHawks will face the winner of the June 18 game between the LA Galaxy and Arizona United SC. Should Carolina face LA, it will be the third straight year Carolina has hosted the Galaxy in Open Cup competition.