Dec 18, 1995	The art of the penalty kick (Garry Archer)
May 17, 1997	Of shootouts and point systems (Dustin Christmann)
May 18, 1997	Comments on Washington Post shootout article (Dustin Christmann)

From: (Garry Archer)
Subject: Re: Roberto Baggio
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 1995 17:24:10 GMT

Being a great (skillful) player doesn't necessarily mean being a great
penalty taker.  Chris Waddle (Sheffield Wednesday and formerly England)
comes to mind too.

Personally, I do not understand why.  They have the skill to put the ball
wherever they want.  Perhaps it's the pressure?  It is a totally different
kind of pressure endured during open play.  This is probably because the
pressure is shared amongst both teams.  During a penalty kick, the pressure
is focused almost exclusively on the kicker because the odds are against the

Many players cannot handle the pressure of taking a penalty kick during
big games -- especially if the result of the game may depend on the kick.
The adrenalin begins to pump and some players actually start to shake or
become queasy.  When players start to feel like this, this is when you
see kicks hoofed over the bar (too much adrenalin) or straight at the

The other problem with penalty kicks is that it is psychological warfare
between the kicker and the goalkeeper.  It is the goalkeeper's job to
psyche out his opponent, to make him either nervous or kick the ball right
where the goalie wants it -- faking the kicker out.  The kicker will play
his little mind games too; body feints, eye feints (!).

Also, the kicker is often psyched out by fans and/or the outfield team mates
of the goalie.  Sometimes the other players will bump into the kicker or tap
the ball away on their way out of the penalty area, or try to initiate an
argument (I saw some of this in the Lazio-Sampdoria match on Sunday during a
first-half penalty kick).

So it takes special talents to be a penalty-taker -- not necessarily special

By far the best penalty kick I have ever seen is when Czechoslovakia defeated
West Germany in the European Nations Cup Final in Yugoslavia in 1976.  The
game ended 2-2 after extra time and went into penalty kicks.

Czechoslovakia went first.  Masny scored, 1-0.  West Germany's Bonhof made it
1-1.  Nehoda, 2-1.  Flohe, 2-2.  Ondrus, 3-2.  Bongartz, 3-3.  Jurkemik, 4-3.
Then West Germany's Uli Hoeness hoofed it over the bar.  Still 4-3 to
Czechoslovakia.  If Panenka scored, Czechoslovakia would beat the reigning

Stop and think about that one!  One kick.  Winner takes all and your opponents
are the reigning Champions.  The pressure must have been amazing.  The
psychological warfare must have been at fever pitch.  All of Europe (at least)
was watching.   _How_would_you_have_done_it_? :-)  Well, get your heart
out your mouth to start, I suppose!

Panenka stepped upto the ball.  Sepp Maier was West Germany's goalkeeper.
With the most amazing coolness I have ever seen, Panenka faked a hard shot
which Maier fell for and instead he just chipped the ball softly into net.
It was absolutely brilliant.

Now, who says penalty kick shootouts can't be exciting?!!!!!

Subject: Of shootouts and point systems (was Re: A solution to the Shootout - Draw problem)
Date: 17 May 1997 02:41:47 GMT
From: (Dustin Christmann)

ES Grey   wrote:
>Shootout winner gets 2 pts.  Shootout loser gets 1 pt.  Wins are 3, 
>losses 0. That's the way to go.

Been there, done that in the 1995 A-League.  3/2/1/0 sucked balls heinously.
More to the point, here is the schedule of the Atlanta Ruckus in 1995:

Week 1 (ending 5/7)     at Vancouver    1-1 SOW
Week 2 (ending 5/14)    at New York     0-1
Week 3 (ending 5/21)    Colorado        3-3 SOW
Week 4 (ending 5/28)    New York        2-1
Week 5 (ending 6/4)     Montreal        2-0
                        at Montreal     0-4
Week 6 (ending 6/11)    at Vancouver    1-3
                        at Seattle      0-2
Week 7 (ending 6/18)    Vancouver       4-2
                        at New York     1-0 <==============================
Week 8 (ending 6/25)    New York        0-2
                        at Seattle      0-1
Week 9 (ending 7/2)     at Seattle      1-1 SOW
                        at Colorado     0-2
Week 10 (ending 7/9)    Seattle         0-4
                        at New York     0-0 SOW
Week 11 (ending 7/16)   Idle
Week 12 (ending 7/23)   at Montreal     2-4
                        Colorado        2-3
Week 13 (ending 7/30)   Idle
Week 14 (ending 8/6)    New York        1-1 SOL
Week 15 (ending 8/13)   Seattle         1-1 SOW
Week 16 (ending 8/20)   Montreal        2-3
Week 17 (ending 8/27)   Idle
Week 18 (ending 9/3)    Vancouver       2-2 SOW
                        at Colorado     2-2 SOL
Week 19 (ending 9/10)   Colorado        0-0 SOW

Semifinal game 1, 9/14  Montreal        1-1 SOW
Semifinal game 2, 9/17  at Montreal     0-3
Semifinal game 3, 9/20  at Montreal     0-0 SOW

Final game 1, ?/??      Seattle         1-1 SOW
Final game 2, 10/8      at Seattle      0-3
Final game 3, 10/12     at Seattle      1-1 SOL

The reason I have marked the week 7 match against New York?  BECAUSE IT WAS

Yes, you read that correctly.  Over the final four months of the season,
Atlanta did not win a single, solitary game in regular time.  Moreover, they
almost won the championship doing so.  And did they suffer for this?  No.
Here's the table:

                                  Pd   W  WS  LS   L    GD   G+   G-   P+
    1. Montreal Impact            24  16   1   1   6   +20   47 - 27   51
    2. Seattle Sounders           24  13   5   2   4   +16   40 - 24   51
    3. Vancouver 86ers            24  10   0   3  11     0   43 - 43   33
    4. Atlanta Ruckus             24   5   8   1  10   -12   29 - 41   32
    5. Colorado Foxes             24   7   1   6  10    -6   35 - 41   29
    6. New York Centaurs          24   5   1   3  15   -18   21 - 39   20

They finished in fourth place and made the playoffs.  In fact, they earned
more points in shootouts (17) than they did in regular time (15).  And who
was their coach, a Philistine that would allow such a mockery?  None other
than the current coach of the LA Galaxy, Lothar Osiander.

The fact of the matter is that 3/2/1/0 allows teams to play negative soccer,
playing not to lose rather than to win, and be successful at it because you
can earn more points in two shootout wins than you can in one regular one.
And the Ruckus did just that.  Having seen them in action on Prime's A-League
game of the week a couple of times, I can tell you that their commitment to
attacking was token, at best.  Why should they even bother?

The problem with any point system that gives too much value to shootout wins
is that shootouts are NOT random, are NOT crapshoots.  They can be practiced,
and there are some teams that are very good at them.  Why does this matter?

You can reduce a shootout-based point system to a non-shootout-based point
system, given how well a team does.  In other words, how many points, ON
AVERAGE, does a team receive for making it to a shootout, and how does it
relate to the number of points received for a win?  Essentially, this is
a simple ratio of how much more valuable the average win is than the aver-
age draw.

For example in 3/2/1/0, if a team is an automatic winner in a shootout, then
it essentially becomes 3/2/0, or 1.5/1/0, if one keeps the value of a draw
fixed at 1 and varies the value of a win.  It then stands to reason that that
team doesn't have too much incentive to go for a regulation win, since it
doesn't count for too much more than the draw, and the two points that they'll
get from the shootout.  Conversely, if a team is an automatic shootout loser,
then the point system becomes 3/1/0.  This team will have much more incentive
to go for the win, since they get many more point from a win than a draw.
The average team will win 50% of its shootouts, so 3/2/1/0 becomes 3/1.5/0 or
2/1/0, which was abandoned in recent years worldwide for 3/1/0, to provide
teams with more incentive for going for the win.

But remember, the shootout is not random, so some teams are good and some
teams aren't, meaning that a wins and draws aren't worth the same thing for
all teams.  Here's what the 1995 A-League's 3/2/1/0 point system worked out
to, given each team's success in the shootout:

Vancouver       3/1/0
Colorado        2.63/1/0
New York        2.4/1/0
Montreal        2/1/0
Seattle         1.75/1/0
Atlanta         1.59/1/0

There is almost a direct correlation to these and each team's commitment to
attacking soccer, if my memory of these teams on the Prime A-League Game of
the Week serves me correctly.

Now let's look at the 3/1/0/0 point system used by MLS.  For the above hypo-
thetical automatic shootout winner, the point system reduces to 3/1/0.  For
the hypothetical automatic shootout loser, the point system reduces to 3/0/0.
And for the hypothetical average team, it reduces to 3/0.5/0 or 6/1/0.  The
greater point is that whether you're good at the shootout in MLS or not,
you don't have much incentive to go to it rather that try for the win
in 90 minutes.

Moreover, if you hate the shootout, then you'll prefer 3/1/0/0, since it
gives teams a good reason to avoid it.

So to sum up:

* Shootouts suck :^)
* If your league is run by a bunch of suits who insist upon having shootouts,
using a 3/1/0/0 point system is MUCH better than 3/2/1/0.

Class dismissed.

Subject: Re: Wash.Post. article on Shootout
Date: 18 May 1997 23:13:57 GMT
From: (Dustin Christmann)

ES Grey   wrote:
>Excerpt from the Washington Post, May 18, 1997:
>"It's a flip of a coin," DC Coach Bruce Arena said.  "There's no rhyme
>or reason to who wins shootouts.  You could practice this thing all
>night and it's not going to make any difference.  It's a crap shoot. 
>We'd prefer a tie..."

Unfortunately, Arena is dreadfully wrong about this.  It is not random, it's
not a flip of the coin.  Some teams are good at the shootout and some aren't.
And in fact, when a "good" shootout team plays a "bad" one, and the match goes
to a shootout, the "good" one almost always wins.  Here are the groups, go
do the research:

Winners: Dallas, Columbus (loser w/o Friedel), Kansas City, Tampa Bay (this
        year), MetroStars
Losers: DC United, San Jose, New England (6-2 in 1996, but 4 of 6 wins came
        from fellow losers), LA, Colorado

A good goalie helps, as in the cases of Dallas, Columbus, and the MetroStars,
but the shooters also have to know what they're doing.

Don't believe me?  Here's the Burn's shootout record, broken down by team:

Colorado: 1-0
Columbus: 1-1 (The win was before the Crew got Friedel, the loss afterward)
DC United: 3-0
Kansas City: 0-1 (Game 3 of the Western Conference semifinal)
LA: 1-0
MetroStars: 0-1
New England: 0-0
San Jose: 2-1
Tampa Bay: 0-0

In other words, the Burn won eight of their nine shootouts against shootout
losers.  They've lost all three shootouts against shootout winners.  Uncanny,

>"Both teams play 90 minutes and then you have 25 seconds (five attempts
>in fives seconds each) to lose it.  Obviously if you have a vote of the
>players and coaches, no one would want a shootout.  But that's all part
>of it.  We can't complain about it because we know we have it this
>year.  Hopefully, it will not be part of league play in '98."

Sounds like a coach who was bitter about losing two straight shootouts to the
Burn.  In fact, DC United has had three shootouts against the Burn and lost all
three.  In fact, DC United has had nine shootouts in their history and lost
six of them, three to the Burn, two to the MetroStars, and one to New England.
Their wins?  One against Colorado, one against LA, and one against New England.
Uncanny, no?

>That was taken from an article entitled "United Constitently Misfires in
>Shootouts", Washington Post, May 18, 1997.  While I disagree with
>Arena's statements about flipping a coin, and crap shoot, they are
>crap.  Perhaps there's hope for American soccer yet.

Yes, they are crap but for the time being, they are part of the rulebook in
MLS.  Coaches who do not confront this reality are only costing themselves
points.  Witness the 1996 Clash, who might have finished higher than fourth
had their competence in the shootout been a bit better.

I'd have lot harder time questioning Arena's or Thomas Rongen's or Laurie
Calloway's motivations in wanting to scrap the shootout if DC United et al
were a bit better at them.  At least when David Dir and Ron Newman come out
against them, they don't sound quite as self-serving.