The Panenka penalty is widely viewed as an audaciously high-risk decision. When that unexpected deft chip settles into the net, the player who converts is described as brave and cold blooded. It’s a form of deception reserved for the game’s greats.
Andrea Pirlo’s Panenka vs. England at Euro 2012 comes to mind. Zinedine Zidane scored with a chipped penalty during the 2006 World Cup final. And there’s Sebastián Abreu’s game-winning Panenka for Uruguay against Ghana at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Those are some of the most high-stakes examples ever. But other Panenkas, both missed and converted attempts, have made headlines throughout the summer in the U.S., and one goalkeeper has been at the center of it all.
Sporting Kansas City’s 21-year-old goalkeeper John Pulskamp was deceived by Maalique Foster’s perfectly executed Panenka during a U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss to Sacramento Republic in July – a move that went viral at least in part due to Foster’s celebration afterward.
Two weeks ago, Pulskamp was at the center of another viral Panenka moment, but with a different result.
With the score tied 2-2 in the 93rd minute of a game between Pulskamp’s SKC and the LA Galaxy, and with the Galaxy desperate for points in a tight Western Conference playoff race, LA were awarded a penalty. Javie “Chicharito” Hernández, who had already scored a brace, including a well-taken penalty on Pulskamp in the 88th minute, elected to go with a Panenka for the win.
This time, Pulskamp wasn’t duped.
The home crowd in LA that had been preparing to celebrate a much-needed three points went quiet. International outlets characterized the attempt as arrogant and as an opportunity to showboat by the Mexican striker. Cackles from the ESPN Deportes commentator added salt to Hernández’s wounded ego and further viralized the moment on social media.
“I don’t believe penalties are ever on the goalkeeper to make that save,” Pulskamp told The Athletic. “Statistically it is very unlikely that the goalkeeper is going to make that save so if they do, they’re coming up very big for their team and they’re relying on the forward hitting a less than spectacular penalty in order to make that save.”
Pulskamp was well aware of Hernandez’s tendencies from the spot. He knew that the Mexican preferred to go to the goalkeeper’s left bottom corner. Hernández had scored a penalty on Pulskamp in that way when the two teams met on August 6th, and three of Hernandez’s five penalty misses in MLS (the most in the league since he joined in 2020) were shots to the bottom left corner that were saved.