CARSON, Calif. – One by one, Chivas USA players stepped up to take penalty shots as assistant coaches closely monitored the results at the end of Monday’s training session.
Manager José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá and a handful of starters had left the practice field by then, but the drill was a necessity for a team that has missed crucial penalty kicks in each of the past two games.
“It’s not something we need to necessarily focus energy on, but it’s something we’re doing just in case,” forward Tristan Bowen told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s good to just do it. Guys get their confidence, even though it’s different when you do it in a practice than in a game. But the coaches get a chance to see who’s really comfortable hitting it.”
WATCH: Correa's PK hits crossbar (April 13)
Forward José Correa missed a penalty on April 13 against the Colorado Rapids, hitting the crossbar and failing to tie the score late in the first half of an eventual 1-0 defeat. Then, with an opportunity to grab a first-half lead last week, midfielder Edgar Mejía was denied by Real Salt Lake 'keeper Nick Rimando in another match that was decided by a goal.
“We’ve missed twice, but that’s just how it goes,” forward Giovani Casillas told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve got to keep practicing them in case we get another shot.”
Though penalties stand out as the glaring problems, Chivas USA (3-3-1) could have easily tied both matches even with the failed conversions. They weren’t dominated or blatantly outplayed by either Colorado or RSL – which might explain Chelís’ growing frustration.
The Goats, who cashed in all three of their penalty-kick chances last season, now intend to correct the minor issues.
“We know we’re in a good spot,” defender Carlos Borja told MLSsoccer.com. “There are little things we have to tune. We’ve been in games, but we’ve needed the little things to tie or win games. We’re there. I’m not worried and nobody else is.”
Said Bowen: “Obviously most people are going to look at our penalty misses. What I’ve learned over the years is that in the MLS you’re only going to get a few opportunities in games. Especially against a team like Real Salt Lake, those are the opportunities you have to make.
"Those things are important but, with that being said, it’s not only the missed penalty kicks; there were opportunities in the game that we didn’t capitalize on," Bowen added. "If we’re better in front of goal, those games are a little different.”
Blair Angulo covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com.