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Five thoughts on RSL’s penalty shootout

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Wilmington Hammerheads at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake managed a nerve-testing victory over Wilmington Hammerheads yesterday, going through on penalties after coming back from a 2-0 deficit.

First things first, here’s video for the shootout — it’s a good one, and you should watch it.

Chris Wingert’s penalty

How cheeky is this? Wingert — who I never expected to be in the first-five penalty rotation — is calm, collected, and makes no mistake with his dispatching of the penalty. If you’d told me that we’d win the match when Wingert put a penalty down the middle after sending the goalkeeper the wrong way, I would have been a bit confused.

Still, how good was that penalty? He positions himself to look like he’s taking the same penalty as Burrito Martinez and Joao Plata, but in reality, he’s not doing that at all. It’s an excellent little glimpse into penalty psychology.

Jeff Attinella’s penalty save

First, you have to give Attinella credit for how he handled the shootout from the get-go. He’s played it extremely well, emphasizing his reach in the build-up to the first penalty. He also showed good awareness to dive to the correct side on the first one, adding that little extra bit of psychological influence.

But watch that save above. Really. Do it now. He’s disciplined in when he starts coming off his line, too, only coming off his line when the ball is actually kicked. It's a bit remarkable how good his timing is here.

And, of course, the best part is that this was actually a pretty good penalty — it’s been placed in a difficult-to-save position. The only real fault here is that the taker has shown Attinella exactly where he’s going, but if the penalty is good enough, that’s not as much of a concern.

Javier Morales and the again-failed stutter

This is not the first time we’ve seen Javier Morales try the stutter-step penalty and fail. Sure, it sometimes works, but there are too many instances where it puts him at a decided disadvantage. The worst part is that he can be a very clean penalty taker, and this was clearly not that. He's telegraphed where he’s actually going, he hasn’t adjusted his take when the goalkeeper has stayed put, and he's missed as a result.

Maybe it’s time for the stutter-step penalty to be forgotten.

Plata hits the corner

Penalties are nearly unstoppable if they’re placed in a corner, and Joao Plata’s — though not the strongest — is that rule extrapolated. He’s perfect in his placement, and the goalkeeper, despite getting down well, doesn’t have a chance.

Burrito Martinez — incredible

Wingert’s penalty was great and memorable for lots of reasons, but the precision with which Burrito Martinez takes his is outstanding. He’s watching the right side of the goal as if he's planning to place his shot there — and in retrospect, that should seem like a real sign that he’s going the other way, considering his level of experience and ability. He starts his run-up slowly, but he speeds up in the last foot or two before snapping the ball to the far post.

How does he do it? Great question. I don’t know the answer, but I love it.