U.S. Men's National Team

Which USMNTer other than Landon Donovan would be your top PK option?

Donovan PK (Reuters Pictures)

The United States national team is in desperate need of a goal in the waning minutes. After a foul in the area, the referee points to the spot. Penalty! One problem. For whatever reason, Landon Donovan isn't on the matchday roster. Somebody else has to step up and take the kick.

In light of Clint Dempsey's penalty against Chelsea yesterday, it got us to thinking: Who in the U.S. player pool would be the best non-Donovan option should the situation arise?

Given Donovan's command of penalty-taking duties and his penchant for being a part of every crucial U.S. match, this is likely to be nothing more than a hypothetical situation; however, it's always good to be prepared for a surprise scenario.

So who are some of the top options?

For starters, there's Dempsey. Had Petr Cech guessed incorrectly, Dempsey would be lauded as a hero for winning yet another match for Fulham. Granted, penalties haven't been his strongsuit over time, but he represents perhaps the strongest overall offensive weapon available for coach Bob Bradley.

As for the strikers, World Cup participants Jozy Altidore, Herculez Gomez and Edson Buddle are all viable options, though not one of them has converted a penalty kick for the United States as recently as Teal Bunbury, whose PK against Chile rescued a draw in last month's friendly.

What about some of the other midfielders? Michael Bradley and Stuart Holden come to mind as two confident, skillful options who would have no problem overcoming the mental hurdle of the penalty situation.

Then there's the captain: Carlos Bocanegra. Who better to shoulder the pressure of an intense moment than the team's leader?

Those are just some of the possibilities. Who would you want to see step to the spot if Donovan were not available? Cast your vote here:

  • Royals in 208

    Stu Holden is as good an option as Donovan. Deuce is right up there too. Misses happen.


  • Nicole

    But it’s not just one missed PK. He has a history of missing…or, wisely, bowing out and not even taking one.

    Funny…Donovan is a master at taking PKs. And he’s usually clutch. And yet how many folks always put an asterisk on his goal-scoring record by saying, “yeah, but how many are PKs?” As if PKs are a given and are easy. And or course, only about 1/4 are PKs to begin with.

    On the list, I’d say Michael Bradley, Stu Holden and/or Maurice Edu.


  • Nicole

    Donovan scored a clutch PK in the World Cup for crying out loud. He scored a PK in the Confed Cup against “one of the best keepers in the world.” And his percentage of making PKs is astronomical. You can probably count on one hand how many he’s missed. Of course he’s the clear No. 1 choice.


  • Jolivernyc

    Stuart Holden strikes a ball as well as anyone in the national team pool right now, including Landon. Watching him play for Bolton this year, you see a player who wants the ball all the time. He has such confidence in himself right now, which is incredibly important for a penalty taker. I’ve always been a fan of the philosophy of giving penalties to players who want to take them. Confidence is more than half the battle. The rest is striking the ball on target and getting lucky with the goalkeeper not guessing the right way.


  • AshortDeparture

    If you’ll remember about a month ago Gerrard made a similar storming run late in the Liverpool v. Blackburn game and earned a penalty, which he then took rather tamely and had it saved. Same thing with Dempsey, you can’t expect a player to maintain the perfect poise required for a quality PK after dancing around defenders on a thirty yard run. It’d still be Dempsey in my book, especially since the rest of the Nats, excluding Donovan, don’t take the initiative, which should say something about their confidence in that sort of situation.


  • Neuwerld

    Cherundolo, Holden, Bradley, maybe Bocanegra. Everyone else I would be hesitant to go with. I can see a lot of other guys shanking them over the bar or hitting them right at the GK.

    Dempsey is undoubtedly one of the best American players, but I don’t think he is a good PK taker. All the ones I’ve seen him take were a comfortable height and not in the corner. And for what it’s worth, he also missed both of his PKs in MLS shootouts.


  • Warren

    Umm…he was benched, because he was about to bail. 100% accurate.

    You could say they benched him to make sure he didn’t get hurt before a trade or loan came through, which may well be.

    But also 100% accurate to say he bailed out and in out in transfer or laon request, to get off a team looking like it was going to be relegated.

    Rather than fighting to keep team up as Dempsey and others have done.

    So at least in my book, not the greatest display of leadership.

    Nothing wrong with pursuing self-interest, but we shouldn’t pretend that’s not what it was.


  • Warren

    Actually it’s skill plus mind game, which is why in PK shootouts forwards and middies usually shoot first, although some defenders are exceptionally good at taking pk’s, eg Dolo.


  • Brian

    I’m pretty sure I was the one who posed this question yesterday in the Dempsey’s post, but haha it’s cool SBI. I’m glad you made a post out of it.

    In like a Gold Cup, Confederations Cup, or World Cup knockout round penalty shootout, my first 5 penalty takers would be:

    Donovan, Cherundolo, Bocanegra, Holden and Bradley.


  • Brian

    I don’t think Jozy would be all that bad. A guy in the comments the Dempsey post yesterday was telling me he saw some video where the USMNT had a penalty taking competition and Jozy came in first and Dolo came in second.


  • Brian

    Yes he missed the one against RSL in the MLS Cup Final and against Pachuca in the Superliga Final, but tell me how many have you ever seen miss for the national team? I can’t recall any. He’s made them in the World Cup, the Confederations Cup, the Gold Cup and in qualifying. Everyone misses them every once in a while. I’m sure Donovan’s percentage is fantastic.


  • Brian

    He has a powerful shot. You can’t deny that. Just not so much the clinical finishing. I’m hearing from other SBI posters that Jozy is pretty good at penalties.


  • GW

    “I’m not a Jozy hater,”


    Seems like the whole idea of your post is to tell everyone you think Jozy isn’t professional enough to take a penalty. That’s an insult to him, by the way.


  • GW

    No legitimate international goal keeper will care if the opposing keeper lines up to take a penalty.

    During penalty shootouts in the World Cup and other big competitions, you will see that the keeper often winds up taking penalties. It’s no big deal. If he doesn’t already, Howard should be practicing taking penalties because you never know when a shootout could go extra long and he might be needed.

    Look up the great Paraguayan keeper Jose Luis Chilavert. Besides penalties he often took free kicks in the opposite half and scored 62 goals in his pro career including 8 for Paraguay. This is twice as many as Holden and Dolo, combined, have scored for the US.

    Or you could look up Rogerio Ceni of Sao Paulo and Brazil who, with 98 goals from free kicks and penalty kicks has the record for a pro keeper.


  • GW

    What amazes me about all these posts is that no one has mentioned how singularly remarkable Deuce’s overhead kick on the rebound was.

    It wasn’t that far off and I’m still trying to figure out how he did it. If he had made it, it would have been an all time highlight.


  • GW

    ” but we shouldn’t pretend that’s not what it was.”

    Unless you have inside sources, you’re pretending to know how things were at BMG behind the scenes.

    “Rather than fighting to keep team up as Dempsey and others have done”

    Are you saying Dempsey or “others” had a choice?

    So in 2007 when Deuce scored that goal against Liverpool to keep Fulham up, he turned down a transfer to Chelsea; instead he bravely chose to stay with Fulham and fight it out? Dream on.

    You are mistaking a relegation fight for the Alamo.

    Fulham’s recent relegation concerns haven’t been anywhere near was dire as BMG’s were just before they loaned out MB. They had fewer points than games at the halfway mark and were beyond extremely unlikely to avoid the drop.

    You and I don’t know what MB said or wanted but it seems unlikely he could have stayed even he wanted to.


  • Joamiq

    This is a bit of a silly debate. All of these guys should be able to make PKs without any problem. When you have to decide who should take a PK, the best choice is probably the player with the most confidence at the time. If someone missed a sitter earlier in the game, or missed a PK two weeks ago, that’s likely to be on their minds when they step up. So I think the answer really depends on what’s happened lately.

    I suspect that Jones’ confidence is pretty steady, so he’s probably usually a good call. Same with Bradley. Probably Holden as well. For now? Why not go with Bunbury? His confidence when he steps up to the spot is probably pretty high right now.


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