KANSAS CITY, Kan. – Destiny was staring Eddie Johnson in the face, but he had just one chance to take advantage.
Standing between Johnson and the possibility of a fourth straight US Open Cup championship was Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen. If the Sounders forward made the penalty kick, Seattle’s fifth and final try, the shootout would press on. If he missed, Kansas City would walk away with the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup trophy.
“It’s one of those moments that you dream of as a soccer player, being in those big moments and really contributing to the team in a pressure situation,” Johnson said. “I wouldn’t change anything about my approach. I was confident taking it. I sent the ‘keeper the wrong way.”
Except while Nielsen was headed one way, the ball was headed high up into the bleachers, eventually settling as Sporting KC celebrated their second-ever Cup title.
And although he said he wouldn’t change a thing when it came to the planning and execution of the kick, Johnson did acknowledge that Nielsen has at least something to do with throwing him off.
“From a psychological standpoint, he probably got in my head a little bit because he was reading a piece of paper,” he said. “For me, I didn’t want to change anything. I’m comfortable going that way, and I just think I hit it a little too hard.”
Johnson wasn’t the only Sounder to send his penalty attempt sailing over the bar, either.
Two attempts prior, Osvaldo Alonso did the same, keeping the score knotted at 2-2 without forcing Nielsen to make a save by driving another shot high over the crossbar.
“Ozzie hit it differently than he normally hits it,” head coach Sigi Schmid said, “so he put it over the top … Eddie put his over the top as well. Those are just not well hit. Sometimes you hit them well, sometimes you don’t.”
Christian Tiffert also missed for the Sounders, as Nielsen dove to his left to keep out the German’s effort, giving Seattle three straight misses to close out the shootout, which they lost 3-2.
Only Johnson did so with the game on the line, though, but don’t expect him to dwell on the opportunity to make history that went begging as the ball sailed into the stands.
“It doesn’t hurt. The coach put me there for a reason,” Johnson said. “I’m confident in my own ability. The team is confident in me. It’s a lose-lose situation. If I don’t take it, I get criticized. If I take it and miss, I’m still going to get criticized. Those are the things you have to deal with as someone that everyone has high expectations of. I stepped up, I took it and it didn’t go my way.”