According to Wikipedia, roughly 76% of penalty kicks result in goals. Then how come so many of us standing in front of our seats at RFK Stadium on Saturday night had a good feeling that Josh Wicks was going to make a save against Brian McBride? It really defied logic, but I absolutely felt like there was better than a 50% chance that Wicks would come up with the stop, and reading some of the comments on the Insider, I wasn't alone with that feeling.
Wicks says that he picked the direction he was going to dive before McBride had even stepped up. I buy that, but I also think there's more to it than just picking a side. For me, it's all about confidence. And confidence is something that Wicks clearly has plenty to spare of these days. If the goalkeeper actually THINKS that he is going to save the ball, and based on how things had been going in the match, if the shooter actually THINKS that the goalkeeper might save the ball, there's got to be a greater than 24% chance that the goalkeeper IS going to save the ball. All about confidence. Wicks was in the head of the Fire attackers on this night, and he's probably still in McBride's head 48 hours later.
One last thing thought… Josh Wicks was not the only MLS goalkeeper to save a penalty kick on Saturday. Danny Cepero of the Red Bulls also had a penalty kick save, yet it still resulted in a goal. The difference there was in the defending of the rebound. United's match saw Bryan Namoff charge into the box after the shot and knock the rebound clear out of play. Toronto's match saw a handfull of Red Bulls standing around watching as their savior of 2008 made a great stop on Amado Guevara, and then continuing to watch as Danny Dichio easily tapped in the rebound. A good goalkeeper will only get you so far if you have a terrible defense in front of him.