Home MLS Vancouver Whitecaps Whitecaps work on penalty taking ahead of Thursday’s playoff date

Whitecaps work on penalty taking ahead of Thursday’s playoff date

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Some managers do, and some don’t.

But put Vancouver Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie into the camp of soccer bosses who have their teams practice penalty kicks ahead of knockout games.

If the Whitecaps’ knockout match Thursday in Carson, Calif. against the Los Angeles Galaxy is tied after 120 minutes, Rennie already has a pretty good idea of who will be taking spot kicks.

“We have practiced penalties throughout the whole season,” said Rennie.

Yes, the Whitecaps have just one goal this year on a penalty, but Rennie said — by regularly practicing them on the training ground, he knows which members of his squad will be the coolest to step up to the spot, in case the need for a shootout arises.

And, for a team like the Whitecaps, which has struggled to score in open play but keeps a lot of clean sheets, it’s not unthinkable that it could nurse a 0-0 draw through 120 minutes.

“Even though we’ve got just one penalty (goal), I know we have got the layuers that can take care of them, if we get to that point.”

Of course, Rennie said that, while he has five shooters in mind, a lot will depend on who is left on the field if the game indeed goes to spot kicks. He may need to sub out one of his preferred shooters — and that’s where the decision to practice penalties throughout the season could pay off.

On the other side, Rennie feels his faith in keeper Brad Knighton, who took the starting job halfway through the season, is paying off. Used sparingly in New England and Philadelphia, Knighton went to the NASL last year to work under Rennie in Carolina. He flourished as a starter, being named to the league’s Best XI. And Rennie isn’t worried that Knighton will be fazed by his first MLS playoff game.

“I think he’s ready for it. He took a step down last year to play a lot of games, to be a starting goalkeeper… He doesn’t have as many starts as some of the other goalkeepers in MLS, but his goals against average (0.70) is among the lowest in the league.”

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