CONCACAF Champions Cup: Patrick Schulte describes mentality from Columbus Crew-Tigres PKs

Patrick Schulte can remember it like it was yesterday. He was playing U-13 soccer up in Indianapolis and his team was going into penalty kicks for a chance to head to the national finals when his coach put a statement out into the universe -“‘All right, Patrick’s going to save two.'”

Taking the statement and turning it into his mindset, Schulte saved two penalty kicks for his team to advance.

It was in that moment that Schulte realized that he had the ability to be a good penalty-kick goalkeeper, and with every attempt he saved he instilled more confidence in himself.

In Schulte’s rookie season with the Crew, he struggled with penalty kicks, allowing all four of the attempts he was met with during regulation score, but his track record changed in the CONCACAF Champions Cup quarterfinals. On April 9, Columbus and Tigres finished regulation in their second-leg matchup tied, forcing a shootout to decide the series winner.

With the 2023 season far from his mind, Schulte told teammate Evan Bush he was going to save three of Tigres’ penalty kicks, setting a target number just like his youth soccer coach did for him years ago. Schulte would finish with two saved penalties, but that’s all the Crew would need to advance to their first Champions Cup semifinals 4-3 in penalty kicks.

“I’ve been there before and I have a bunch of confidence in myself,” Schulte said. “That’s just my mindset going into it was, I knew I was going to stop a couple. … There wasn’t any worry, it was more so just quieting the crowd and celebrating and moving on.”

More Crew vs Tigres: Wilfried Nancy displayed trust for players in PKs vs Tigres

Being able to perform at a high level during the shootout took more from Schulte than just confidence in his ability to save penalty kicks. He had to prove that he could mentally move past his error in the opening minutes of the match.

Tigres came out of the gate in the second leg attacking the goal, putting Schulte on his heels early. Within the first four minutes of play, striker Andres-Pierre Gignac took two shot attempts on goal, the first in which Schulte saved and the second the Crew goalkeeper conceded, putting Columbus in a 1-0 hole.

“It lingers, in a fact that I know what happened, but the way that I try and just move forward it’s like, I can’t do anything about it,” Schulte said. “Especially in the game like that, where we had to score anyway, and the way the guys responded and the way that everyone was talking to me or talking to each other, like it wasn’t a make-or-break moment, which obviously really helped the situation.”

The Crew knew going into the match they needed to score at least one goal, because Tigres held the tie-breaking advantage with a road goal after the first leg at Field finished 1-1. Schulte’s mistake early made the need to score even more of an urgent matter.

In the 59th minute, Diego Rossi came through for Columbus, tying up the game and series.

With both Schulte and Tigres goalkeeper Carlos Rodriguez holding their respective opponent scoreless the rest of regulation and two extra-time periods, there was nothing else to do but go to penalty kicks on Tigres’ home field of Estadio Universitario.

“That is an incredibly hard place to make a mistake early stages in the game,” said Crew teammate Will Sands. “But he (Schulte) didn’t play nervously after that and he more than redeemed himself. Honestly played an excellent game and really came through in PKs. So, it’s one of the most impressive things in terms of the mental side of the game that I’ve seen in a long time.”

Patrick Schulte vs Andres-Pierre Gignac: PKs

Estadio Universitario was loud and fully behind Tigres as Schulte stepped into the back of the net to face his first penalty kick of the night against Gignac, the only person from Tigres who’d got the ball past the Crew goalkeeper during the series so far, with a goal in each leg.

The fact that Tigres had the first penalty kick of the night gave the club an advantage, since Columbus would have to at least match what its opponent did first, but that motivated Schulte as he faced off against Gignac.

“A guy like Gignac, they’re a striker, they go all over the place just like Cucho, he goes every which way,” Schulte said. “So honestly, I just tried to get a good read on him throughout the game from what I remember with him. And then his walk up, his approach to it, and just kind of go from there. Just sticking with the decision that I make and just getting a good push and covering as much as the goal as I can.”

As Gignac shot the ball to the left side of the net, Schulte jumped to his right for his first penalty save of the night. After Rossi hit his attempt, Tigres’ Guido Pizarro took his shot to the right, and Schulte once again was able to get the jump, this time to his left to record back-to-back saves.

Wilfried Nancy watched Schulte from the sideline and thought, “He’s in trouble” because the Crew coach knew after that moment that 23-year-old can step up to the occasion for penalty kicks on this type of stage.

With Schulte standing at 6 feet 3, Nancy figured that his size would play to his advantage, but he was impressed to see how sharp the goalkeeper was during his two saves against Tigres. There was also a part of Nancy that felt Schulte was drawing motivation from the mistake he made earlier in the match.

“When you make a mistake, automatically, when you’re a competitor, you want to repair and to fix the mistake,” Nancy said. “And I think sometimes, when you’re facing a wall and this is the only you have to go through the wall, you don’t think too much, and you try to find superpower.”

Schulte felt that at that point of the match it was no longer about redemption, but rather wanting to leave his impact on the game and for his teammates, who had stepped up in the light of his mistake.

Another point of inspiration in the back of his head came from a mentality that Nancy has instilled in the team throughout his two-season tenure that took him back to playing U-13 soccer in Indianapolis.

“Wilfred always talks about staying who you are, who we were as a kid,” Schulte said. “Honestly, that’s what I thought about before the penalties was, I knew I could do it. I knew that I’ve had success in penalties and just kind of go be that kid that I was back in the day.”


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This article originally appeared on The Columbus Dispatch: Columbus Crew in Champions Cup: Patrick Schulte PK approach vs Tigres

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