The Dallas Morning News
Preparation is a must for playoff shootouts
Coaches want players who are confident kicking under pressure
Penalty kicks, one of the most exciting — and pressure-filled — ways to determine a state champion in soccer, are all about composure.
“There are some players that have nerves of steel, and there are some players that don’t,” Jesuit coach Charles DeLong said.
That’s why Highland Park coach Stewart Brown asks his players right before the playoffs start to help decide who will take part in a shootout if a game is tied after regulation and overtime.
“We ask for volunteers,” Brown said. “Confidence is the key.”
The Jesuit boys and Highland Park girls will be among five Dallas-area teams playing in the UIL state tournament, which is Wednesday through Saturday at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown. Shootouts have become common at state, so coaches make sure they are prepared.
Last year, six of the 18 matches at the state tournament went to shootouts. Highland Park (25-0-0) is at state for the fifth time in six years, and it won shootouts in the 2012 4A state championship game and in a 2015 6A state semifinal before losing to Flower Mound in a shootout in last year’s 6A state championship match.
“We probably practice three or four times throughout the year,” said Brown, whose team is ranked No. 1 in the nation by TopDrawerSoccer.com and plays Boerne Champion at 9:30 a.m. Thursday. “We did it maybe once or twice before district play because that was part of our district tiebreaker deal, maybe practiced three times since the first round [of playoffs].
“The girls know the order they’re going to go in. We know our 1-5 [shooters] and our 610. We trust that we picked people who are confident on the ball most importantly.”
Shootouts are used in any playoff game that is tied after overtime, but the UIL allows each district to decide if and how it will break ties in district games during the regular season. If districts don’t want their games to end in a tie, they can play overtime and a shootout if necessary or go straight to a shootout.
“We don’t have [shootouts] in our district, but when we get down to the last couple of games of the year we start practicing it, because we know that’s going to be part of the process during the playoffs,” said DeLong, whose Jesuit team plays La Joya Juarez-Lincoln in a 6A boys state semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Jesuit (20-3-1) is in the state tournament for the first time since 2010. That year it won its regional final in a shootout and then beat Houston Strake Jesuit in a shootout in the 5A state championship game.
“We practiced [shootouts] every day, 15, 20, 30 minutes,” DeLong said of the 2010 season. “We picked six to seven kids that we knew were going to be the ones that would do it. We selected them so that each kicker had a different style, so when they went against the goalkeeper, the goalkeeper was going to see something different.”
That was back when players would dribble up from the 35yard line in a shootout, so Jesuit used a mix of players who were right-footed, left-footed, good at chipping the ball, good at dribbling the ball and good at bending the ball. Starting with the 2013 season, the UIL changed its shootouts to penalty kicks from the 12-yard line, but DeLong said his players still practice regularly so they can get a feel for what they’re comfortable with and where they want to go with the ball when the game is on the line.
Each team gets five shooters in a shootout. If it’s tied after five rounds of penalty kicks, each round after that becomes sudden death until one team scores and the other team misses. The Frisco Wakeland boys (20-4-1), who play Wichita Falls in a 5A state semifinal at 5 p.m. Thursday, won the 2010 4A state championship game in a shootout but lost in the 10th round of penalty kicks to Brownsville Porter in last year’s 5A state final.
Teams can use anyone on their bench to take a penalty kick in a shootout as long as the player hasn’t received a red card in the game. Andy Holt, in his first year as Wakeland’s coach, only makes small changes to his shootout lineup.
“I’ve got the five guys that I want,” Holt said. “We might vary as far as who is going first, second, third, fourth or fifth. You also have to be ready for injuries.”
Teams don’t have to use their starting goalkeeper. They can alternate goalies during the shootout. Wakeland uses two goalkeepers in games, with each playing a half. Holt said his team used two goalies in the one shootout that it had to play during district.
DeLong tries to spice up shootout practices to help prepare players for the stress they will face in a game.
“You do funny things, like, ‘If you miss, you’ve got to pick up all the balls,’ a little more risk-reward kind of thing,” DeLong said. “It’s hard to duplicate the pressure you’re going to feel. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t practice it.”