VANCOUVER, B.C. — Countless players have attempted to recreate Antonin Panenka’s signature penalty since he won the 1976 European Championship for Czechoslovakia by lobbing his spot kick down the middle of the goal.
No one in today’s game seems to be doing it any better than Seattle Sounders midfielder Gonzalo Pineda, who pulled it off once again on the equalizer in the Seattle Sounders’ 2-2 tie with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. Pineda has also famously converted “panenkas” in penalty shootouts for Mexico in the 2005 Confederations’ Cup (WATCH it here) and for Chivas in the 2007 CONCACAF Champions League final (WATCH 1:10 mark of this video).
“I only try to do it when it’s the right moment, when no one is expecting that,” the midfielder said. “But my first goal is to score, not to be fancy or something. It’s just to score.”
Aside from picking the right time, it also takes a high degree of confidence to attempt something that audacious. Even with Brad Evans on the field -- the Sounders’ all-time leader in penalties and a perfect 6-for-6 from the spot -- Pineda immediately grabbed the ball. Evans, who was on the defensive side of the field when Cam Weaver was taken down in the box, had barely even crossed the midfield stripe before Pineda was lining it up.
With the kick being delayed as the Whitecaps argued the call, Pineda calmly stood over the ball and waited for referee Ismail Elfath to give his signal. As Vancouver goalkeeper David Ousted dove to his right, Pineda looped his shot straight down the middle.
“Coach said it could be Oba [Martins], could be Brad [Evans], could be me,” Pineda said. “I know I just felt the confidence and said ‘This is my time.’”
The Sounders were obviously the main beneficiary. After being outplayed for the bulk of the match, Pineda’s cheeky chip allowed the Sounders to pull out result in a match in which three of their regular starters were missing and a fourth was forced to leave with an injury.
“We made some mistakes to give them some goals and they capitalized on it,” said Sounders midfielder Chad Barrett, who scored the team’s other goal. “Good teams will do that. At least we got a point out of it, but it’s a little bittersweet.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com.