Crew on the spot to convert chances
COLUMBUS, Ohio - When a player is taken down in the penalty box and the referee points to the spot, opposing players typically argue the call. Meanwhile, fans typically begin to celebrate the almost-certain goal - unless of course it is at Columbus Crew Stadium.
Dating back to last year's MLS Cup Playoffs, the Crew have converted just one of five penalty kicks in front of home fans. Additionally, the Black & Gold have missed one on the road this season. The streak follows 20 consecutive successful conversions dating from October 1999 to the end of the 2004 regular season.
"All of them would have altered the momentum of the game," said Crew coach Greg Andrulis. "We never talked about a 20 in a row streak, but you miss a few and it is the hot topic. At the end of the day, you are supposed to be making them, not missing them."
There are two schools of thought as to who takes the kick. Sometimes, the fouled player takes it, since he earned the chance. There's also a thought that it's unlucky for the player who won the kick to take his own penalty. And on many clubs, the same player takes every penalty kick.
During the 2005 campaign for the Crew, the player that drew the spot kick has yet to take it. But the Crew haven't settled on a regular penalty taker either.
"We have practiced and rated the guys. We will continue to do that each week," said Andrulis. "At the end of the day, those are the guys that step up and take it."
While John Wolyniec and Mario Rodriguez have drawn one each, Cornell Glen has drawn two. Kyle Martino and Chris Henderson wasted the two chances created by Glen on May 28 and June 18, respectively. Over the weekend, Rodriguez missed the opportunity following a foul on Wolyniec. Only Glen has successfully converted, earning the Crew a 1-0 win against the Colorado Rapids on June 11. Both in Crew losses, Henderson's and Rodriguez's misses occurred when the match was scoreless.
This year's woes are partly caused by the departure of the last season's primary takers. Ross Paule and Jeff Cunningham successfully took seven of eight kicks during the regular season. Additionally, Martino converted the eighth before spot kicks turned into nightmares for the Ohio club.
Before last Halloween's disastrous match that saw the Crew knocked out of the playoffs at the hands of the New England Revolution after Paule and Tony Sanneh missed spot kicks, the Crew converted penalty kicks 86 percent of the time. Now, the Crew's all time conversion rate has dropped to 77 percent.
John Kuhn is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.