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The Physics Teacher

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Sports, Force and energy, Portland Timbers (Soccer team), Major League Soccer (Organization)


The Portland Timbers won their first Major League Soccer (MLS) Cup Championship in December 2015. However, if it had not been for a kind double goalpost miss during a penalty shootout a few weeks earlier, the Timbers would never have been in the finals. On Oct. 30th, after what has been called "the greatest penalty kick shootout in MLS history," featuring a combined 22 penalties that included penalties by both goalkeepers, the Timbers won their first-round playoff against Sporting Kansas City. During the thrilling shootout, which can be watched on the MLS website, Sporting had two potentially game-winning penalties miss by the smallest of margins. One penalty bounced off the goalpost back into the field and another was an improbable double post miss. For a physicist, this prompts an interesting research question. Could we find an estimate by what distance the double post penalty shown in Fig. 1 failed to be the game winning shot?


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The following article appeared in Physics Teacher, 54(7), 434-438 and may be found online at:



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