Dwayne De Rosario on perfecting the penalty kick
The Experts Series is a multi-part project which delves into the mindset of athletes who've reached the pinnacle of their profession, offering insight on the philosophy and fundamentals that led to their most memorable moments.
Five minutes into stoppage time. The New York Red Bulls trail the Portland Timbers by a score of 3-2. The Timbers do all they can to preserve their lead, but a handball in the box near the end of stoppage time sends the Red Bulls to the spot.
Thierry Henry cut the Timbers' lead to one goal with a left-footed strike in the 73rd minute, but Dwayne De Rosario is the player called upon to bring the match level.
Up steps De Rosario. His kick goes left. Keeper Troy Perkins guesses correctly, but the shot sneaks past his outstretched arms to the back of the net, evening the score.
Moments later, the final whistle sounds.
The pressure of the moment did not weigh on De Rosario.
"When I take penalty shots, I always have my mind set," De Rosario told theScore. "I always like to take penalty shots. I always like to have the pressure on me."
Successfully taking penalty kicks on a big stage is nothing new for De Rosario. In 2006, he successfully converted his kick in a shootout to help the Houston Dynamo win the MLS Cup. In 2008, his goal on a penalty kick in the 69th minute stood as the decisive marker in the MLS All-Star Game, which was being held in his hometown of Toronto.
Today, De Rosario makes penalty kicks a big part of his DeRo United Futbol Academy, which helps young players take their game to the next level.
"After every lunch period we usually start back by taking penalty shots," he said. "What I try to do with the kids is try to make them envision themselves in a big game, in a big moment. Whether it's Canada playing in a World Cup final, or Canada playing a game to lead them to the World Cup.
"I create the noise, try to create that fan atmosphere, try to make them envision themselves surrounded by 50,000 fans, and try to make them understand that pressure. And also teach them the psychological part of not giving away where they're going to kick it to that keeper."
While many players will read the goalkeeper in strategizing the placement of their penalty kick, De Rosario takes a decidedly different approach.
"I don't really try to buy too much into what the keeper is doing, because that will throw you off," he said. "When you step up to take a penalty shot, you have to have confidence in yourself. You have to envision yourself scoring before you even take the shot. You have to be able to say, 'This ball is going in the net no matter where the keeper is diving.'
"Everybody takes penalty shots differently. Some players anticipate where the keeper is going to move, and then they put it to the other corner. My approach is different. My approach is more of an aggressive approach. In my mind, I decide where I'm going to go and I just stick with it."
Newcastle legend Alan Shearer. Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard. Real Madrid megastar Cristiano Ronaldo. Many of the best penalty takers seem to share De Rosario's aggressive philosophy: the goalkeeper is at your mercy, not the other way around.
"(A penalty shot) is a unique situation in soccer," he said. "It's probably the one time that the ball's all in your court, in a team environment. Just one-on-one."
Previous editions of The Experts Series
Mike Weir on putting under pressure
Mike Weir on winning on golf's biggest stage
Kelly Gruber on what it takes to hit for the cycle
Tyler Bozak on the art of the faceoff
Wendel Clark on what it means to wear the 'C'
Tyler Bozak on the most exciting play in hockey
Dwayne De Rosario on delivering a set piece