January 25, 2015
THE PENALTY SAVIOR
Steffen's PK save saves USA
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica -- The score sheet will say that Ben Spencer and Paul Arriola scored for the United States in its victory that punched its ticket to the FIFA Under-20 World Cup on Saturday night.
What it doesn't say is that goalkeeper Zack Steffen made a vital game-changing save on a penalty kick in the 52nd minute of the CONCACAF U-20 Championship playoff game.
Who knows what would have happened had El Salvador's Jose Villavicencio had converted? At the time the Americans enjoyed a 1-0 lead en route to a 2-0 triumph. But of course, in soccer, goals can change momentum and the course of matches in an instant.
“Zack made a great save at the right time for us," USA head coach Tab Ramos said at the Montego Bay Sports Complex.
This is how things transpired seven minutes into the second half.
El Salvador did not have a single shot through the first half, but the Central American side was awarded a penalty kick as Cameron Carter-Vickers was called for a handball in the box.
“I knew it was a PK, so I didn’t even try to argue it," Steffen said. "I went back, got a sip of water and relax myself."
Steffen was confident because he and the USA had done it's homework on El Salvador.
"We did a little bit of scouting on No. 11 on his previous PKs, that he went to my right side," he said. "So it was kind of a little mind game to see if he would switch it up and go to the left side."
Steffen slid to his right side to make the save.
"I saw him look to the left side, and players usually try to trick the goalkeeper by looking one way and going the other," he said. "So I saw him look one way and I had a strong feeling he’d go right. And I was able to save it.”
“After he took it, I was thinking about yesterday and how we practiced them and how I was feeling good. The practice helped get me in the zone. If we didn’t practice I think I would have been a lot more nervous.”
No one was more relieved than Carter-Vickers.
“It was excellent," he said. "I gave away the PK, so I was a bit nervous. And when he saved it I was relieved. I thought he was going to save it; I had a feeling he would and believed in his ability. We were practicing penalties yesterday in training and he saved quite a few, so I thought he had it in him.”
Steffen was just happy to contribute and help the team qualify for New Zealand. The tournament will run from May 30-June 20.
“It’s awesome," he said. "To be the No. 1 and be able to carry the team with Russ [Canouse] and Kellyn [Acosta] to the World Cup, it’s very exciting.”