Federico Higuain PK attempt CLBvLA 8-23-17
Greg Bartram / USA Today Sports Images

SIRK’S NOTEBOOK: Missed PKs Don’t Ruin Day

I know I have frequently conveyed this sentiment in this space, but it’s true—one of the great things about heading to any sporting event is that you never know what you are going to see on any given night. If you were at MAPFRE Stadium on Wednesday night for Columbus Crew SC’s 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy, you certainly saw an unlikely oddity. It was not a pleasant peculiarity for the home team, but thankfully it was an inconsequential irregularity.

In the 22nd season in MLS history, Crew SC became just the sixth team to squander two penalty kick attempts in a regular season game. Conversely, LA’s Jon Kempin became just the fifth goalkeeper to ever save two penalty kicks in a regular season MLS match.

“I’ve rarely seen games where you miss two penalties,” said Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. “I think I’ve never seen that, personally.”

In his home debut, new Designated Player Pedro Santos earned a penalty kick in the 21st minute. The original call was a foul just outside the box, but after video review, the penalty was awarded. Following the delay, longtime PK taker Federido Higuain stepped to the spot in the 24th minute, but he did not hit the ball with much pace. Kempin leaped low to his left and gobbled up the shot.

Thankfully, Ola Kamara was able to score just before halftime, giving the Black & Gold the 1-0 lead that eluded them from the penalty spot.

In the 79th minute, Kamara stepped to the spot after being taken down by Kempin. On his penalty attempt, Kamara drove a hard shot toward the side netting, but Kempin again leaped to his left and made an excellent sprawling save.

Thankfully, a teammate once again came to the rescue. This time it was Justin Meram scoring in the 90th minute to give Crew SC the insurance goal that eluded them from the penalty spot.

“I think we obviously wanted to score those goals,” Berhalter said of the missed PKs, “but I think it tested us and we needed to stay focused, keep playing, and get an insurance goal, which we did in the end.”

“To have it happen twice is really hard to deal with, but I think our guys responded well,” added captain Wil Trapp. “Justin nabbing that one at the end was huge to ice it. On the field, you just have to move on.”

Ola Kamara was the yin and the yang of the PK Miss-o-Rama and Redemption Jamboree. After Higuain’s PK was saved, it was Kamara who picked up his teammate by scoring the goal to make it 1-0 anyway. In the second half, Kamara saw his own PK saved, but then was picked up by Justin Meram’s insurance goal to make it 2-0 anyway.

“I think we had a good feeling still when Pipa missed it,” Kamara said. “It happens. You’re scared when you miss in the second half because maybe they get a little momentum and if they score it’s a bad feeling, but then Justin scored that incredible goal at the end and then you’re very relieved.”


Okay, I might as well address the elephant in the room. Wednesday’s game marked the second time Crew SC ever missed two penalty kicks in a game in all competitions. The first, of course, was the legendary playoff elimination vs. New England on October 31, 2004. The Supporters’ Shield winners missed two PKs in a 1-1 home draw, losing the series 2-1 on aggregate to the lowly Revolution, who finished 16 points behind the Black & Gold that year. New England goalkeeper Matt Reis saved a Ross Paule penalty in the 24th minute, then saved the infamous attempt by Tony Sanneh in the 79th minute. (“I'm supposed to freeze him, but he froze me,” Sanneh said of Reis after the game.)

For those fans who lived through that awful October night, Wednesday’s experience was blissfully benign in comparison. Sure, the two missed penalties made for a few disappointed and nervous moments, but at the final whistle, it was a 2-0 win for the good guys. All’s well that ends well.

Since it didn’t negatively impact the result, the worst thing about it in the end was that it made me think of October 31, 2004.


Before I go, here’s some Mr. Numbers Nerd info…


(Bolded goalkeepers made two saves)






Penalty kicks




L 1-0

Tony Meola

Preki (high) 1’

Mo Johnston (SAVE) 45’




T 0-0

Tony Meola

Jaime Moreno (SAVE) 47’

Marco Etcheverry (SAVE) 91+




T 0-0

D.J. Countess

Amado Guevara (SAVE) 2’

Clint Mathis (SAVE) 86’




L 2-1

David Ousted

Bradley Wright-Phillips (SAVE) 5’

Bradley Wright Phillips (SAVE) 65’




W 3-0

Bobby Shuttleworth

Ilsinho (SAVE) 47+’

Sebastien Le Toux (SAVE) 79’




W 2-0

Jon Kempin

Federico Higuain (SAVE) 24’

Ola Kamara (SAVE) 79’


A few notes…

* While Tony Meola escaped two penalty kicks twice in his career, only once did he make the save on both attempts.

* That 2003 game when D.J. Countess made two PK saves is notable in that it is the only game in MLS history with THREE penalty kick misses. After the multiple saves by Countess, Dallas forward Eddie Johnson stepped up to the spot in the 88th minute to win it, but his attempt was saved by Jonny Walker. Three PK attempts in the game, three PK saves, and the most unfathomably 0-0est 0-0 draw ever.

* Bradley Wright-Phillips in 2015 is the only instance where the same player took both failed PKs.

* While this has happened only six times in MLS history, this marks the third consecutive season with an occurrence. It’s probably not so much a run of crazy fortune/misfortune as it is a function of there being so many more teams and games than in the early years of the league. (For example, there will be 374 league matches in 2017, whereas there were 150 in 2004.)

* Thanks to Crew SC’s resiliency on Wednesday, teams missing two PKs are now on a two-game winning streak, bringing their overall record to 2-2-2.


Questions? Comments? Got a list of other weird bad oddities that you will shrug off so long as the game ends in a Columbus victory? Feel free to write at sirk65@yahoo.com or via twitter @stevesirk


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