UConn men’s soccer must reverse the curse
Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 12, 2012 00:09
There is no greater drama in all of sport that matches the jubilation and the sheer agony of the penalty kick shoot out.
After the two teams have battled to a deadlock after 120 minutes, fates cruel hand is left to decide the winner.
Some of the greatest players of all time have fallen to their knees when faced with the unimaginable pressure of that 40-yard march alone to make their spot kick.
In fact my first futboling memory (one of my first memories of anything) was watching the 1994 World Cup Final with my father. After 120 minutes of rather restrained football by Italy and Brazil, it was to be decided on penalties. With Italy missing two of their first four PK’s, and Brazil only missing one, Italy needed their fifth to find the back of the net. Then Roberto Baggio made his walk to the spot. My father proclaimed, “he will never miss, it’s Baggio,” and going by common sense that seemed to make sense, but this was futbol.
Baggio was currently the reigning FIFA World Player of the Year, he scored 52 goals combined in his last two seasons win Juventus, and he was Italy’s golden boy.
And he skied it.
After missing a disconsolate Baggio, just stood there as the Brazilian team enveloped their match-winning keeper.
As famous as the victors are, it almost seems that the losers become the ones written into footballing folklore. The England national team has become famous (or infamous if you support the Three Lions) for losing shootouts. They have exited World Cup 90, Euro 96, World Cup 98, Euro 2004, World Cup 2006 and Euro 2012 thanks to penalties. Maybe now you understand that self-deprecating English humor.
Oddly enough right here at the University of Connecticut, the men’s soccer team is developing a bit of a trend of struggling with spot kicks. Last season they lost to Charlotte at home at the quarterfinal stage, in 2009 Monmouth defeated them and in 2010 is was Brown.
UConn Coach Ray Reid acknowledges the team’s recent struggles with PK’s and says he uses that to motivate his current team.
“Five, six days a week I bring it up, I want to put salt in the wounds. It’s still my wound, so it should be theirs, I bring it up as much as I can,” said Reid.
Reid, looking toward this season’s tournament says this year his team will break the curse.
“We will win a knockout game this year on penalty kicks, I’m telling you right now, either in the Big East Tournament or the NCAA Tournament, we will win a knockout game this season on penalty kicks.”
Whether or not Reid is proven correct is yet to be seen, but if confidence counts for anything UConn’s chances of shootout success may be looking up.