BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Following the recent heartbreak of two late penalty misses, there is one burning question on the lips of every Chicago Fire fan: Who will take the team’s next penalty kick?
The Fire should have grabbed late wins against the Philadelphia Union and the New England Revolution in their last two home games, but heroics from the visiting goalkeepers and the wastefulness of their penalty takers prevented Chicago from doing so.
Against Philadelphia, with the teams tied at 2-2 deep into injury time, Union netminder Zac MacMath denied Mike Magee with a superb double save to ensure Philadelphia left Toyota Park with a point. Two weeks later, Bobby Shuttleworth was the hero for New England, saving a tame effort from Juan Luis Anangonó and Jeff Larentowicz’s rebound to secure an unlikely point for the Revolution.
Larentowicz, captain and scorer of the Fire’s only successful penalty this season in a 1-1 tie at Portland back in March, was diplomatic about his thoughts on the subject following the draw with the Revolution. But head coach Frank Yallop had two emphatic words to say on Tuesday when pressed by reporters at Toyota Park: “Jeff Larentowicz.”
True to form, Larentowicz played down Yallop's comments and said nothing is set in stone.
“I think that’s something that we’ll deal with between myself, Frank and Mike," said the veteran midfielder. "Mike’s been the taker since he’s gotten here; I took one when he wasn’t. Obviously it was a mistake in the last game on my part to allow what happened. It’s good that the fans have confidence in me, but we’ll decide on that in-house.”
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Fire fans do indeed have confidence in Larentowicz's penalty-kick abilities. A recent poll of supporters on the Chicago Fire website agreed with Yallop's sentiment that Larentowicz should take the club's penalty kicks. Larentowicz (3-for-4 in his MLS career, not including shootouts) claimed 47 percent of the vote, Magee (6-for-8) came in second at 27 percent and rookie Harry Shipp (2-for-3 at Notre Dame last year) was a distant third at 13 percent.
The Fire return to action after a bye week when they host Real Salt Lake this Saturday evening (8:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).