Last year, when the Washington Diplomats were the Detroit Express, a shootout was more like a duck shoot. And they were the ducks.
That team lost seven of nine games decided by the North American Soccer League-invented tie breaker. This year, the Diplomats (8-3, 61 points) are 2-0 in shootouts following Monday night's 2-1 victory in Tulsa over the Roughnecks.
"Personally, I don't like shootouts, but they are part of the rules," said Coach Ken Furphy. "We haven't done anything differently in preparing for them this year. In fact, we haven't practiced on it as much. We just have a few more players who are a little more composed and more experienced."
David McGill, barely 20 and in his first shootout, made the game-winning shot in the one-on-one contest with Tulsa goalkeeper Zeljko Bilecki. But Furphy was talking about players such as Trevor Franklin, acquired the morning of the game after a year and a half with Atlanta. He volunteered for the shootout and drove a shot past Bilecki to help the Dips take a 3-2 advantage.
And David Bradford, 27, who scored just before McGill with an unorthodox lob shot.
"I just tapped the ball forward about six or seven strides, then rolled it back on the sole of my foot and flicked it up and over the goalkeeper's head," Bradford said. But he doesn't like the shootout either.
"When you win, you learn to like them," he said. "But I'm glad to see that only four points are awarded for a shootout victory. It keeps teams from playing for the shootout as often."
Washington's Jim Brown, the league's fourth-best goalie with a 1.06 goals against average, also appreciated the victory but not the method.
"I don't like the shootout too much; it's a bad way to finish a game," Brown said. "After 90 minutes and then a 15-minute overtime, if the game is still tied, call it a draw and split the points. But I guess the fans like it.
"When it comes down to a shootout, the game becomes an individual effort, not a team effort, and that's bad. But I must admit it is better this year, because these lads put the ball into the net."