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Penalty kick sparks debate in Sporting KC win over Whitecaps

Photo by John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports
Photo by John Rieger/USA TODAY Sports

Controversy around a penalty kick usually hinges on whether the penalty should or should not have been called. In the case of Sporting KC and the Vancouver Whitecaps Saturday night, the confusion arose from what occurred after the ball was struck.

Vancouver Whitecaps goalkeeper David Ousted easily saved Benny Feilhaber’s penalty kick, which was called as Jacob Peterson went down in the box in the 63rd minute. However, despite the inital euphoria that comes with a penalty kick save, the referee callsed for a retake after deeming Ousted guilty of leaving his line early.

“Benny steps up and he stops, like I know he does, but he stops completely. And I obviously reacted the way he runs up to it,” Ousted said. “So I step in and dive and he puts it in my path.”

“Then [the referee] calls me for being off the line, which is… I believe I am a little bit off the line but the thing is if Benny gets to stop completely, I have no choice but to react to it. So P think its a bad call but there’s nothing I can do about it now.”

Feilhaber did a stutter-step take his first penalty. After it was saved, he did an identical stutter-step, to which Ousted dove the right way but couldn’t make the save on the penalty to put Sporting KC up, 2-0. Feilhaber said he “shanked” the first try at the penalty, placing it far too close to the middle.

“He made it tougher on me,” Feilhaber said. “I shanked the first one, to be honest and thankfully I got a second opportunity and just tried to kick it a little bit harder, so if he did guess, which he guessed right again, I could put a little more steam on it.”

When Ousted discussed the call with the assistant referee, the referee responded by citing part of Law 14 of the Laws of the Game, which states that a player can stutter-step unless deemed unsporting by the referee. The referee determined Ousted to be violating the rule by jumping off his line early. This exchange was confirmed by referee Kevin Stott’s comments to a pool reporter after the match.

Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson, however, took issue with the referee’s interpretation of the rule.

“I got told then that he moved off his line and that he wanted to follow the letter of the law, which if you follow the letter of the law, there was a player in the first half that should have gotten two yellow cards,” Robinson said. “So you can’t follow the letter of the law when you want to and not when you want. If you’re doing that, then every game will have two penalties taken because the keepers will move off their lines.”

The match hinged on the penalty kick. If Ousted were to save it, the Whitecaps could have built momentum and made the game closer. Instead, Feilhaber scored and Sporting KC put a vice grip on the result.

Robinson said he wasn’t disappointed in his team’s response to going down 2-0, but Sporting KC’s first-half goalscorer Jacob Peterson said he valued the momentum the penalty goal gave the team.

“I’m sure Benny was more relieved that anybody, but that was a big goal for us,” Peterson said. “Luckily the second one kind of squeaked through, too. This team has so much faith in Benny on those penalties. He’s one of the best in the league at them. We knew after he missed the first one he was going to redeem himself and he did.”

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