When FC Dallas captain Reto Ziegler lined up to take a potential game-tying penalty kick Saturday night, a million thoughts were running through goalkeeper Vito Mannone’s head.
Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath and his staff thought Ziegler would go to Mannone’s left, so they told him that.
Mannone himself was thinking of the past two days of film, considering Ziegler was Dallas’ go-to player for penalty kicks. He had studied Ziegler intently, combing over the details with goalkeeper coach John Pascarella.
When it came time for the actual penalty kick, Mannone noticed Ziegler’s run-up was different than what he saw on video. The keeper waited, waited, waited … right till the last second, when he thought Ziegler could no longer go left, like the coaching staff had suggested.
So he adjusted on the fly, diving right and making the save to preserve the 1-0 victory for United (10-7-3, fourth place in the West) — sending the announced 19,906 fans at Allianz Field into a frenzy.
“When he approached the ball, I thought he couldn’t put it on the side anymore,” Mannone said. “And then you have to make a reaction save, and thankfully, it went well.”
Heath went to hug his fellow coaches, and the Loons embraced Mannone once the referee blew the final whistle. The save was an exclamation point in an otherwise ho-hum game in the first 90 minutes.
“For some reason, I knew he was going to save it,” said forward Mason Toye, who scored the only goal. “I believe in that dude; he’s the guy that got me going when I scored my first one when I came on.”
The crowd itself was on edge in the lead-up to the penalty kick. The fans exploded when Toye scored, but hushed when United was called for the penalty inside its box. They endured a video review replay that ultimately upheld the call.
But there was one last surge in the immediate aftermath of Mannone’s save.
“They got us over the line,” Heath said of the crowd. “I’ve never heard the stadium as loud as this, ever. The last five minutes and then when Vito made the save. Incredible.”
More importantly, Minnesota protected its home turf, improving to 6-1-3 at Allianz.
While the Loons have navigated a seven-game, 22-day stretch successfully — winning all five matches thus far — they’ve also been boosted by being at home. They’ve had to travel only once in that stretch, a 3-2 road win at Montreal featuring largely depth players.
“Good performances, great team spirit, energy,” Heath said of the home performances. “It’s been an accumulation of a lot of things, but mainly hard work and belief in what they’re trying to do.”