BURNABY, B.C. — Pick a spot. Don't change your mind.
Those words of wisdom passed on by many a youth coach to his young protégés when it comes to the art of penalty taking will surely be ringing in the ears of members of the Vancouver Whitecaps ahead of Thursday's playoff showdown with the LA Galaxy at the Home Depot Center (10:30 pm ET; TSN/RDS2 in Canada, NBCSN in US, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
If the match is tied after 90 minutes of play and 30 minutes of extra time, spot kicks will decide who advances to the Western Conference Semifinals.
"We do practice penalties and we do practice them throughout the season and it's something in the past that I've been able to come out on top in," head coach Martin Rennie told reporters during a conference call on Tuesday. "What I've tried to do throughout the year is try to find out who our best penalty-kick takers are ... so some of the best players may not be on the field at that point.
"Although we were only fortunate to get one penalty kick this whole season we feel confident we have guys that can take care of this if we get to that point."
While many observers aren't giving the Whitecaps much of a chance against the defending MLS Cup champions, and many fans would likely take the theoretical coin flip of a shootout if that was offered, the players themselves insist taking care of business before it gets to that stage is the aim.
"However we get that goal, whether it's a free kick, a fluky goal, whatever it takes, we'll take," midfielder John Thorrington said, "and hopefully be able to capitalize on the chances that we have and get a goal — or two."
At the other end of the pitch, goalkeeper Brad Knighton, who stopped a penalty during league play, says he's done his homework and is ready to play hero should that be required.
"If we shut them down defensively, and if we do the things that we're going to do right and we catch them on the counter like we're looking to do and we take our half chances I think we'll be excited at the end of the game," Knighton said. "If it ends up 0-0 at the end of the game, we're going to PKs."
"So no team really has to score to go through — that's the way we're looking at it," he added. "We're going to turn some heads I think."
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.