NEW YORK — Nobody wants a cup final to go to penalties. Except, perhaps, those masochistic neutrals.
Still, they are a necessary evil in deciding an outcome of game that 120 minutes of play can't. Rapids head coach Gary Smith knows that, and has prepared his players should this Sunday's MLS Cup final (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, Galavisión) end in a tie.
"If it goes to penalties, the only thing any of us can ever do is practice time and time again, in the same spot, picking a side, feeling comfortable — getting used to that process of finishing from the penalty spot," Smith told media on Monday.
LISTEN: Media call with Smith, Cummings
Though players can practice the mechanics of taking a spot kick "time and time again," the coach admitted there's no way his side can prepare mentally for a shootout situation.
"At the end of the game, when the guys will be exhausted having got to that point, mentally I'm sure they'll be in a stressful position," Smith said. "There'll be some pressure on them, however it ends up at that point."
That said, it's clear some teams cope better in shootouts than others. In last year's MLS Cup, Real Salt Lake defeated the Galaxy after a perfect show in the shootout.
Smith's Colorado may consider themselves among the PK elite, though. In the second leg of their conference semifinal series at Columbus on Nov. 6, the Rapids tallied all five from the spot to bounce the Crew after battling to a tie in aggregate. The Rapids also converted all four penalty attempts during the 2010 regular season.
Though forward Conor Casey is usually called upon first for PK duties, the Rapids also sent Macoumba Kandji, Jeff Larentowicz, Claudio López and Julien Baudet to the spot against the Crew.
Curiously, one player Smith didn't entrust in the shootout was Omar Cummings, despite the Jamaican forward’s team-high 14 goals this season. Still, Cummings admitted he’d like a go should the chance arise.
"I'm more than confident with taking penalties," Cummings said. "If I'm called upon, I'll definitely be more than happy to put one in the back of the net."