Written by Corbett Smith
New penalty-kick shootouts make soccer playoffs even more of a coin flip
A quarter of the soccer games (three of 12) on Thursday night ended by going to penalties.
And while a penalty-kick shootout isn't a way most coaches and teams want to end their seasons, it's better than the alternative.
Most coaches I've spoken with are in favor of the 2011 UIL Legislative Council rule change - approved for the 2013 season - which moved away from old-school, MLS-style 35-yard dribble-ups to a standard penalty kick during the shootouts. For one, penalty kicks are universal, used at every other level: club, academy, college and pro. Additionally, penalties are something that players practice away from high school soccer.
The dribble-up - where the ball was placed far out from goal at the player's feet, giving both she and the goalkeeper five seconds to maneuver for a shot - was such a rarity that it required more coaching and preparation to get acclimated, coaches said.
Going to penalties, though, doesn't make it an even field. Dribble-ups offered goalkeepers more of a chance for a save, allowing different options on how to defend the shot. Penalty kicks, on the other hand, depend more on luck. Keepers might be able to discern something in how a player addresses the ball; but more often than not, it's a guessing game: pick a side and hope the kick is slow enough to reach.
Frisco Liberty coach Cissy Blaisure, whose team won 2-2 (4-2) against McKinney North in the sectional round, said the change turns to focus from the keepers to the shooters. If a player hits his or her target, the penalty kick, Blaisure said, isn't likely to be saved.