What just happened?
Forgive the candid nature of that question, but it's difficult to fully grasp everything that went down Wednesday night in Kansas City.
Sporting KC knocked off the three-time defending US Open Cup champion Seattle Sounders in a game that seemed to have everything – pregame hype, a raucous crowd, late drama and can’t-afford-to-look-away action in penalty kicks.
And, oh yeah, controversy.
After a miss from Sporting’s Paulo Nagamura in the fifth round of penalties, the Brazilian was granted second life from the spot after referee Ricardo Salazar confirmed with his assistant that Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning had left his line before the kick was taken.
Nagamura cooly took full advantage of his mulligan and buried it in the lower left corner of the net. After Sounders forward Eddie Johnson skied his penalty over the bar, Sporting KC won their second USOC title and their first since 2004.
But what about that crucial call?
Under the laws of the game it’s the right one – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s enforced very often. In this week’s Three for Thursday, we highlight three instances of rarely, if ever, seen calls.
1. Portland convert after third PK attempt
Bill Hamid, for one, can empathize with Gspurning.
On May 29, 2011, the D.C. United goalkeeper was penalized not once – but twice – against the Portland Timbers after denying Kenny Cooper from the spot. Both times, Hamid’s efforts were rescinded for leaving his line too soon.
On the third try, Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury stepped up and finally converted. Although United eventually triumphed 3-2, the sour taste in Hamid’s mouth surely lasted a bit longer.
2. Morrow encroaches on Wondolowski PK
WATCH: Wondolowski PK nullified
After a hat trick in a 5-0 romp over Real Salt Lake last month, Chris Wondolowski appeared to have made it four goals in two games – and to have inched ever closer to Roy Lassiter’s MLS single-season scoring record – after converting a penalty kick against FC Dallas.
It was not to be, however.
Fellow Earthquake and MLS All-Star Justin Morrow was called for encroaching and Wondolowski’s PK needed to be retaken. Dallas’ Kevin Hartman subsequently saved Wondo’s next attempt and put his 18th tally of the season on hold.
While the miss did not ultimately decide the outcome – San Jose went on to win 2-1 after, ironically, a penalty-spot miss from FCD’s Jair Benítez in the game’s dying moments – Wondolowski now hasn’t scored in three games since his three-goal effort vs. RSL.
Whether the miss has had an effect on his psyche is open to interpretation, but regardless, the modest goalless drought continues.
3. Erin McLeod’s six-second violation
In one of the most controversial decisions in Olympic women’s soccer history, Canadian goalkeeper Erin McLeod was whistled for a six-second violation by Norweigan offical Christina Pedersen in Monday's semifinal match vs. the United States.
It's hard to remember a time when that call was made since, well, ever.
And this wasn't your six-year-old daughter's rec league, either. It happened in an Olympic match with chance to play for a gold medal, no less.
The violation gave the US an indirect free kick inside the 18-yard-box – which led to a converted PK from Abby Wambach after a handball on the ensuing kick by Megan Rapinoe – and tied the score at three apiece. The Americans eventually found the winner in stoppage time of the second extra time when Alex Morgan headed home past McLeod.
The Canadians were verbally and visually upset about the call afterwards, with McLeod adding how she had “never known this to happen in a game before.” A baffling end concluded an instant classic where implications from that decision are sure to linger well after the match. Just how long will they last?
That, too, is up for debate.