FRISCO, Texas — In the first half of FC Dallas’ 5-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 25, forward Dominque Badji drew a penalty after being taken down by Dynamo defender Jose Bizama, looking to open the scoring in the match.
Badji picked up the ball and began walking towards centerback and captain Reto Ziegler, who normally takes the penalties. After a discussion, Badji gave the ball to Ziegler, who stepped up and put the ball into the back of the net.
“He wanted to take it,” Ziegler said. “I said that we’re on the same team and I have nothing against giving him the penalty. It’s just my job and if he would miss, they would come to me and say ‘Why you don’t take it? You are the leader.’ I told him to let me take it, I’m confident I’m going to score and maybe in the future, if I’m not feeling well or not on the field, he can take the next one.”
Ziegler has been the main spot-kick taker for FC Dallas. Out of his five goals, four of them have come from the spot, including two critical penalties in the last two weeks.
In the 3-3 draw against Montreal, Ziegler continued the comeback after a handball was called in the box. The penalty against the Dynamo allowed Dallas to start the match strong against its bitter rivals. Ziegler has continued his set-piece duties from last season, where he had two goals from PK’s after he took over from former midfielder Mauro Diaz, who was transferred away in the summer.
“When I arrived here, Mauro Diaz was here and he also had a good record so I was sharing it with him,” Ziegler said. “When he left, then it was something natural. Something I’m able to do. I’m not perfect. I missed one this season but all of the best players are missing penalties. It’s something as a captain you should do when you can do it and I’m confident in taking the penalties.
“There are moments when shooting penalties are easier but actually — the last two penalties were with a lot of pressure — but when I’m on the ball, I’m relaxed.”
Dallas strike first!
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) August 26, 2019
Part of the routine requires work before matches. Even though his penalty numbers have been limited this season, Ziegler does an analysis of his opponents prior to the match, knowing what the goalkeeper’s tendencies are prior to heading to the spot.
“I watch some videos before the game,” Ziegler said. “When I shoot, I analyze it after; the way I shoot it, was it precise or strong enough? I try to improve for the next one. I don’t think many players are doing that. Actually, it has a lot of work behind it and maybe, this is what gave me some confidence.”
Ziegler has learned from his playing days all across Europe, noting players such as former Juventus player Alessandro Del Piero and former Sampdoria players Antonio Cassano and Giampaolo Pazzini as players he had to wait behind in his youth before being able to take penalties.
“I had to wait because I was the younger guy,” Ziegler said. “I have this leader role and so, I can show it now to the people. If you see my goal-scoring career, you see that now that I’m older, I have more goals because I take these. When I was younger — maybe it was a mistake— the older guys had to take it and now it’s my turn.”
It’s a role that coach Luchi Gonzalez has given Ziegler the responsibilities to. Even though Ziegler missed a crucial stoppage-time penalty against Minnesota United in the team’s 1-0 loss on July 13, Gonzalez’s confidence in his captain and defender is unwavering, especially with his experience.
“He took them last season and was quite successful and he’s been successful this season,” Gonzalez said. “A player with his confidence and his experience and his technique is going to be an obvious choice to step up and do that. We have other players that can if we ever had to go to a shootout, I’m confident in this group. We have to show courage in a PK situation. Reto is earning and even the moment in Minnesota, you have to miss some to make some again.
“That’s life. He shows a lot of confidence and conviction.”