Time to kick soccer shootouts to the curb


Driving to EchoPark Automotive Stadium for the Class 5A soccer semifinals on Nov. 7, I had visions of seeing well-played, competitive matches with no shootouts.

But what did I see? A shootout.

Arapahoe eliminated defending champion Broomfield with a 4-3 win after six shootout rounds. Neither team scored in regulation time or the two 15-minute overtime sessions which got me to climb on the soapbox.

I’ve always felt that soccer shootouts are fun, definitely exciting and nerve wracking for regular season games but they don’t belong in the playoffs when teams are putting all their hard working on the line with a chance to win the state championship.

Yes, both teams have an equal chance of winning a shootout to decide a playoff winner.

But, shootouts eliminate the passing, dribbling, marking, teamwork and physical play that are part of successful teams. Shootouts resort to an individual game of shooting prowess. The goalkeeper’s skill and quite frankly good intuition and luck are also involved in penalty kick shootouts.

This season in just the 5A division there have been three teams ousted from the 5A playoffs because of shootout losses after the two overtime sessions that have been increased to 15 minutes each for the playoffs. There was one shootout in 2017 and four in 2016 including Broomfield, which lost the 2016 state title match after being outscored in a prolonged shootout against Boulder, 13-12. Broomfield won a second-round shootout this season over Denver East.

“I’ve never been a big fan of penalty kicks to end a soccer match,” said Arapahoe coach Mark Hampshire. “It really takes away the integrity of what the sport is, a team sport, and it puts it on the shoulders of an individual or two but it does test the mental resiliency and focus.”

Rock Canyon won a first-round shootout this season but coach Aaron Carpenter has an idea to avoid shootouts.

“I’m not a fan of shootouts,” he said. `This is a bit unorthodox, but I would have the matches go two 10-minute halves of golden goal. At that time, if it remained the same, I would play 8-v-8 with two more 10-minute halves of golden goal.”

I can still remembered the triple overtime in Florida when the Avalanche captured their first NHL Stanley Cup title in 1996. In the playoffs in the National Hockey League, teams keep playing until one team wins.

High school soccer coaches routinely practice penalty kicks and keepers are schooled on what to watch as players get ready to shoot to maybe get a hint on where the shooters plan to aim their attempt.

Tied World Cup knockout games were first replayed, which isn’t an answer for high school teams. World Cup shootouts were first introduced in 1978 and there have been 30 matches decided by penalty-kick shootouts.

The biggest problem is there hasn’t been a viable alternative to a shootout. Fatigue and sloppy play, especially for high school players, is a disadvantage of letting teams continue to play until a winner is determined.

“We have not had any recent conversation about changing our playoff overtime format,” said CHSAA assistant commissioner Ernie Derrera.

There have been a few proposals internationally to improve endings to tied matches. One would be to change the format of the shootouts, since the team that shoots first wins 60 percent of the shootouts. Arapahoe shot first against Broomfield in the Nov. 7 semifinals.

Instead of teams alternating shooters, the first team would shoot once then the second team twice, then the first team twice until it gets to the final round shooter which would be a player from the second team.

Another idea would be to reduce a player on each team to open up the field and keep decreasing players as the overtimes progress.

The notion I like is to have the penalty shootout after regulation match ends and before the overtime sessions begin. It gives the losing shootout team a chance for redemption. If neither team scores during the ensuing OT periods, then the winner of the shootout would be declared the winner of the match.

But for now, I will just have to enjoy the drama provided by shootouts and keep quiet.

Arapahoe goalkeeper Spencer Cobb probably best summed up penalty-kick shootouts.

“PKs are the definition of soccer because it’s so fickle,” he said. “It can go both ways. You like PKs when you win. It shouldn’t always come down to that.”

Pomona, Boll vault to top

Pomona won its fourth consecutive girls Class 5A gymnastics team title on Nov. 1 at the CHSAA state meet with a narrow victory over Overland, but the Panthers’ accomplishment had to be shared with an individual from Lakewood.

Lakewood’s Amber Boll, a senior who has committed to the Air Force Academy, won the 5A all-around title on Nov. 1 but drew more attention in winning the individual vault competition with a perfect 10.0 score on Nov. 3. She also captured the individual titles on the uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise.

Jim Benton is a sports writer for Colorado Community Media. He has been covering sports in the Denver area since 1968. He can be reached at jbenton@coloradocommunitymedia.com or at 303-566-4083.

Jim Benton


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