Playoff soccer often comes down to goalies in shootout

Thursday, November 10, 2005
By Bill Evans

The goalie in soccer, much like a quarterback in football or pitcher in baseball or softball, is almost always in the spotlight.

It's impossible to blend in when a goalie's spectacular effort or bad performance can single-handedly be the difference between victory and defeat.

But the pressure and attention is ratcheted up tenfold when a playoff game is deadlocked after 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime, leading to a penalty kick shootout.

Then the goalie is alone, trying to protect a gaping net from a shooter standing 12 yards away. If the goalie looks past the shooter, she'll see both teams standing at midfield with their attention focused on the only two players that matter. On the sidelines, the fans should also have their gaze fixed straight on the player in the box.

Clearview Regional High School girls soccer goalie Vicky McDermott relishes the opportunity for the game to come down to her. On Monday, she stopped three of seven shots in a shootout against Timber Creek to lead the Pioneers into today's NJSIAA South Jersey Group III final against Moorestown.

McDermott said she is 5-0 lifetime in shootout situations, including games with club teams.

"I like PKs, because I like being able to do my part in trying to win," she said.

Twice this season, Gaburo has faced penalty kicks. She saved one and dove the correct way on the other, but the shot clanged in off the post.

"I like facing them, maybe because I've been taught the tricks, but I feel like I can step up and I know I can (stop them)," said Gaburo, who leads her team into the South Jersey Group II final against Haddonfield today.

Both goalies study the shooter before she starts her approach and look for some telling sign to indicate which way the shot might be going.

"There's a few I can't read, but by the position of the ball and the way they're lined up, I can usually tell which way they're going to go," said McDermott. "My trainer and I have gone over that and worked on that a lot."

McDermott starts to move slightly just before contact in the direction she feels the shot is going. She isn't worried about giving away her intentions at the last minute, especially since she doesn't sell out and leave her feet before the shooter makes contact.

In fact, she prefers the shooter to see her take a step.

"When I start to move, I'm trying to make them change their minds or get in their heads," said McDermott, thinking a last-second change of heart could lead to a mishit.

Twice Monday, McDermott started right then leaned back to the left to make a stop because the ball was towards the center of the net. On the times she guesses wrong and the shooter hits a good ball -- well, the odds are against the goalie anyway.

"I tell Vicky to keep her feet moving and go," said Clearview coach Dan Matozzo. "She tries to read it, but I don't want her to get caught standing."

Some shooters will try hitting the ball straight, figuring the goalie will move one way or the other and not stay still. But a goalie like McDermott, who doesn't completely sell out right away, can thwart that strategy.

"Those are the hardest ones, I think," admitted Gaburo. "I just have to hold myself back enough that I can get back."

Gaburo said she begins to move when the shooter plants her foot to start the shot.

"Mostly it's how they line up the ball, and their hips and that last step that tell you where they're going to go," said Gaburo. "Where that (plant) foot is pointing is where they're going to go. I don't want to wait until they make contact (to move), because if I wait I don't push off and I won't have the footwork to get to where the ball is."

While taking a penalty kick would seem to be a high-percentage shot, Gaburo likes her chances to make the save.

"For me, it's about 50-50," said Gaburo. "That's because I know if I see the angle (of the shot), I have the talent to get there. I just do what I'm taught. The odds are probably in the shooter's favor, but (against) me, I think they're a little less."

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