Welcome back to the Thursday Q&A series, where we focus on one particular topic – today's being penalty kicks and pressure – and ask you to react, share, and discuss in the comments section. However, feel free to ask about anything game-related (MLS, USL, NASL, USMNT, CanMNT, etc.) over the next several hours.
There are a host of interesting psychological concepts talked about in the video above. "Action bias" is a big one, apparently, since it informs the actions of goalkeepers in a statistically dis-advantageous manner.
Simply: Statistically speaking, your best chance of saving a PK comes if you stand still. But because you look like a rube if you stand still and the PK taker rolls a saveable shot into the corner, 'keepers experience "a bias toward movement." This is to avoid the after-the-fact "Why the hell didn't I do anything?" moment of self-flagellation.
Obviously this got me thinking about the PK history of the final four teams left in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs. FC Dallas advanced with a PK shootout win over Seattle in the Western Conference semis, while Portland dispatched Sporting KC in the Knockout Round, winning what is probably the greatest shootout in league history.
Columbus had a different experience with penalties in the last round, as Kei Kamara (historically a very good PK taker) called off Federico Higuain (historically a below average PK taker) with -- at the time -- their season appearing to be on the line. This is what happened:
Columbus, of course, went on to beat Montreal in extra time on a Kamara header. From hero to goat and back again.
That leaves the Red Bulls, who didn't have to suffer through any dramatics in their East semis win over D.C. United. But they do have their own playoff history with penalties, and it is basically a Greek tragedy.
They also have one of the league's best penalty takers in Sacha Kljestan, a Champions League and USMNT veteran who's able to stay "present focused" as well as almost anybody in the league. Yet even he is susceptible to various pressures that take him out of the moment:
I'm not sure what any of this really means for Sunday's Conference Championship doubleheader, which starts with RBNY's trip to Columbus (5 pm ET; ESPN | ESPN Deportes | MLS Live) and finishes with Portland hosting FC Dallas (7:30 pm ET; FS1 | FOX Deportes | TSN5). I'm just going to enjoy staying in the moment.
Ok folks, thanks for keeping me company on another Thursday afternoon!