ST. PAUL -- Minnesota United goalkeeper Vito Mannone had to make a nearly instantaneous transition from furious to focused in order to save a penalty kick and preserve last Saturday’s 1-0 victory over FC Dallas.
The Loons’ Italian keeper was extremely upset when he was called for a foul that set up the PK, telling the referee, “ ‘You want to ruin this game.’ I can’t believe it.”
A couple of days later, he discussed his reaction.
“When I feel like there’s injustice — whether it is or not — I feel like it gives me an extra motivation to make the save and help the team,” Mannone said Tuesday.
Mannone immediately recalled his film study of Reto Ziegler’s penalty kick habits, while also trying to throw Ziegler off with his own actions.
“It’s a poker game,” Mannone said. “Starting my position maybe a little bit wider and coming in the center. Giving him some part of the goal, give him a think.”
Mannone knew Ziegler had a recent history of going to the keeper's left, but Ziegler’s run up to the ball told him that placement would be tough to pull off. Mannone tried to wait as long as he could before reacting to the shot coming at him with pace from 12 yards away.
Mannone lunged to his right and stretched his 6-foot frame as long and horizontal as possible. He acknowledged that you have to make a decision, commit to it and not think of the consequences if the ball is placed elsewhere.
“If you reach that with your push, you cover big parts of the goal,” he said. “If they change and they go top corner. (Shrugs.) It depends on the day what they do. It’s difficult. You need to react in a certain area and not get beat there.”
Mannone, who gave up goals on two PKs earlier this season, got his hands on Ziegler’s shot on the bottom corner to help the Loons win their fourth straight MLS game. Minnesota (10-7-3) now takes that streak on the road to face Real Sale Lake (9-9-2) in an important Western Conference game at 9 p.m. Saturday.
In its MLS era since the beginning of the 2017 season, Minnesota has been a part of 27 penalty kicks, with 23 becoming goals.
Loons midfielders Kevin Molino, Darwin Quintero and Ethan Finlay have converted on 90 percent of penalties taken (9 of 10). Molino is the only one to be denied.
United goalkeepers John Alvbage, Bobby Shuttleworth, Matt Lampson and Vito Mannone have saved 18 percent (3 of 17). Shuttleworth had two saves in 2017 before Mannone’s last weekend.
Mannone knows the significance of Saturday’s save and puts it near the top of his career bests. When Mannone was with English club Sunderland in 2014, he made a shootout save to help beat mega-club Manchester United at Old Trafford in the second leg of the Capital One Cup semifinal.
“(It) was something incredible for me,” Mannone recalled. “It’s the biggest game for the cup … and it’s pretty similar to our story (in Minnesota). We get to the semifinal (in the U.S. Open Cup on Aug. 7). I’m hoping to make that kind of run and go all the way this time and win it because we didn’t win against (Manchester) City in the finals” in 2014.
On Saturday’s drama, Mannone defected some credit to the rest of the Loons; they were tired from their fifth game in 15 days and found a way to create a stoppage-time goal from Mason Toye only minutes earlier.
“It’s just a moment, my moment,” Mannone said. “But I share it with the team because it’s brilliant the effort that we put in and now we try to recover and go again Saturday for the eight wins.”
Minnesota United’s MLS history with penalties
March 3 — Portland’s Diego Valeri scores on John Alvbage
March 12 — Kevin Molino scores on Atlanta’s Alex Kann
March 18 — Molino scores on Colorado’s Tim Howard
March 25 — New England’s Lee Nguyen scores on Bobby Shuttleworth
March 25 — New England’s Chris Tierney scores on Shuttleworth
May 13 — Toronto’s Sebastian Giovinco scores on Shuttleworth
May 13 — Toronto’s Alex Bono saves Molino shot
June 21 — Valeri scores on Shuttleworth
June 24 — Vancouver’s Cristian Techera scores on Shuttleworth
August 20 — Seattle’s Clint Dempsey scores on Shuttleworth
Sept. 16 — Shuttleworth saves Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti shot
Sept. 16 — Molino scores on Montreal’s Evan Bush
Sept. 23 — Shuttleworth saves Dallas’ Mauro Diaz
March 10 — Orlando’s Yoshi Youth scores on Matt Lampson
April 28 — Darwin Quintero scores on Houston’s Joe Willis
May 12 — San Jose’s Magnus Ericsson scores on Shuttleworth
May 12 — San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski scores on Shuttleworth
July 18 — New England’s Diego Fagundez scores on Shuttleworth
Aug. 4 — Seattle’s Nicolas Lodiero scores on Shuttleworth
March 2 — Quintero scores on Vancouver’s Maxime Crepeau
March 9 — Quintero scores on San Jose’s Daniel Vega
March 16 — Los Angeles’ Jonathan dos Santos scores on Vito Mannone
March 30 — Quintero scores on New England’s Cody Cropper
April 19 — Quintero scores on Toronto’s Alex Bono
June 2 — Philadelphia’s Jamiro Monteiro scores on Mannone
July 6 — Ethan Finlay scores on Montreal’s Evan Bush
July 13 — Mannone saves Dallas’ Reto Ziegler shot