Forged in the Open Cup: Columbus Crew’s Shootout Hero Patrick Schulte

Learn about how Patrick Schulte – 2023 MLS champion and 2024 Concacaf Champions Cup Finalist with Columbus Crew – got his start as a fresh-faced teenager in our U.S. Open Cup.
By: Michael Lewis
Patrick Schulte in goal in a red jersey and shorts
Patrick Schulte in goal in a red jersey and shorts

Contrary to what the rest of the world might know, goalkeeper Patrick Schulte did not first rise to prominence helping Crew II to the 2022 MLS NEXT Pro championship or by backstopping the Columbus Crew to the 2023 MLS Cup crown.

He also didn’t first demonstrate his prowess for stopping penalty kicks in the Crew's dramatic 4-3 shootout win over Tigres UANL of Mexico in the Concacaf Champions Cup quarterfinals this April.

Schulte originally made his mark and turned heads in the Second Round of the 2019 Lamar Hunt Open Cup as an 18-year-old high school senior for Division II Saint Louis FC.

You heard that right – an 18-year-old.

Schulte stopped not one, not two, but three penalty kicks in that shootout to help the visitors to a 3-1 win over the Des Moines Menace after the teams played out a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes of win-or-go-home soccer in Iowa on May 15, 2019.

“Playing at Drake Stadium [site of that Open Cup Second Rounder] and the kind of emotions I was going through was pretty surreal,” he told in a recent interview.

Schulte conceded a penalty kick early in the match, but the visitors knotted things up at 1-1. “I was pretty nervous,” he said, remembering back to that formative moment in his career. “I was a lot different than what I am now. But it was pretty awesome.”

It certainly was a match to treasure. On plane trips with the Crew, where Schulte has become a shining star and the club’s undisputed No1, he’ll sometimes look at photos and videos from that match in 2019.

“I kind of relive it,” admitted Schulte, called up for his first USMNT senior camp this year and a likely member of the U.S. Olympic side that will head to the Paris Summer Games in July. “It's pretty cool.”

Cool it is, and we'll help everyone relive it a bit.

Cup Shootout Sparks for Young Schulte

During the shootout, a partisan Menace crowd cheered on their all-amateur heroes from behind the goal.

But that didn’t intimidate Schulte, who dove to his left to deny Joshua Coan on Des Moines' first attempt. After Andreas Volk converted his chance to the right side, Schulte rose to the occasion again, producing a two-handed save while moving to his left on Nick Perea and then sealing the victory by sprawling to his right to stop Gaoussou Bakayoko.

Russell Cicerone – now of USL Championship powers and 2024 Open Cup Quarterfinalists Sacramento Republic – converted the game-winning spot-kick for Saint Louis.

“Before the shootout, all the players were like, ‘We've just got to make three because Patrick's going to save one.’ That really helped me,” Schulte said in 2019. “I'm going to save one and they're going to finish all theirs. Once I saved the first one, I felt really confident. After that, I saved my second – [Perea] took a penalty kick during a run of play, and I had an idea of where he was going to go – and then the third.

“I just picked a way and that's the way I'm going to go,” Schulte said about the process that has seen him become a shootout specialist – among the best in MLS. “I’ve got to make sure I cover the ground and make myself big on the way I'm going to go. It turns out they went the way I guessed.”

There was little doubt that Schulte learned much about himself on that spring night.

“I learned that it doesn't matter how big or how little the moment is, they all matter. One of the biggest things [I learned] was I can do it, especially at that age,” he said recently. “It was my first game and a big moment for the team. Being able to know that I can step up and make plays, it was good for my career.

“Just to take that next step and kind of calm myself down,” said Schulte, who was linked with Premier League giants Arsenal and Manchester United earlier this year. “And just have confidence in myself and don't doubt myself.”

After the game, Schulte got big hugs from his mother Kathy and grandmother Coco. They made the 350-mile drive from Saint Louis to Des Moines with his father Tim to root on their favorite goalkeeper. “They all drove up Wednesday morning when I told them I was starting,” he remembered. “Just having them there in the stands was really special.”

patrick schultre holding up a scarf with text "st louigans join the revolution"
patrick schultre holding up a scarf with text "st louigans join the revolution"
Then & Now – Schulte on that special night with Saint Louis FC in the 2019 Open Cup

The next morning was go-go-go. Schulte woke up at 4:40 am to catch a sunrise flight back to Saint Louis. He went home, showered, put on some fresh clothes and bolted to school. He was a bit late for homeroom, but he didn't get admonished, only congratulated from friends and teachers alike. Given what transpired some 12 hours prior, school officials had no problem with the senior keeper showing up tardy that day.

“They were all supportive of me, congratulating me,” Schulte said at the time. “That was really special walking into school. They all knew about it from Twitter.”

Five years older and wiser, the 23-year-old Schulte already has accomplishments that veterans take years to achieve (if they’re lucky). His meteoric rise includes those back-to-back league championships (MLS NEXT Pro with Crew II in 2022 and the senior side winning MLS Cup in 2023), with hopes of making it three in a row this season.

He realizes that he still has a lot to learn and there will always be mistakes to learn from. Yet, it seems when there is much on the line, the 6-foot-3, 174-lb goalkeeper has what it takes and more.

Open Cup to MLS Cup to Champions Cup

For example, Schulte pulled off his latest penalty kick heroics in enemy territory at Estadio Universitario, San Nicolás de los Garza, Mexico on April 9. The teams were knotted up at two goals apiece in the aggregate goals series, after playing to 1-1 draws in both legs.

Duplicating his feat from five years ago, Schulte denied Tigres’ first two shooters, the legendary Andre-Pierre Gignac and Guido Pizarro, while the Crew built a 2-0 lead.

Schulte crouched on a field with a camera recording
Schulte crouched on a field with a camera recording
Schulte stays focused before the Concacaf Champions Cup shootout against Tigres

As Schulte learned long ago in faraway Des Moines, stopping shots early in a shootout does wonders for a goalkeeper's self-esteem.

“It definitely helps your confidence, getting off on the right foot,” Schulte said after the Champions Cup quarterfinal. “That's the end-goal as a goalkeeper. If you want to help your team win a penalty shootout, getting the stop early allows them [his teammates] to take the pressure off a little bit knowing that they’ve got a cushion. It's not a make-or-break penalty. It gives you confidence, gives you momentum going into the next couple, and hopefully puts fear in the future takers as well.”

Schulte huddled with usmnt players
Schulte huddled with usmnt players
Schulte before his first cap with the U.S. Senior Men’s National Team in early 2024

Tigres put away their final three attempts, but the damage had already been done by the spring-loaded Schulte. Maximilian Arfsten converted Columbus’ fifth try to give the visitors a 4-3 shootout triumph and book a ticket to the semifinals.

“Honestly, it made it a little bit better that we were down in Mexico,” Schulte admitted. “It’s a lot less pressure when you’re down in a hostile environment like that. The fans are amazing down there. They’re loud. They’re behind their team for all 120 minutes. So, just to be able to go down there and knowing that we’re going to penalties, these 40,000 people are rooting for their 11 guys.

"Let's quiet the crowd,” he said of his thoughts. “Let's make them go home empty-handed.”

“It was pretty sweet after saving one, just hearing the crowd go from loud to quiet. And then doing the same thing when we would score, going from loud to quiet. [The feeling was] save as many as I can. I knew that our guys would do the rest. It was a fun night. Definitely one that started rough for me [Schulte had the ball stolen early in the game, leading to a goal] but it ended on a good note.”

In the Concacaf Champions Cup semifinals, Schulte wasn’t called on to make any penalty kick saves in Monterrey. No shootout was needed as Columbus entered the final leg with a 2-1 lead and won the series 5-2 after a 3-1 win.

Concacaf’s Glittering Crown on the Line

The Crew will play at Pachuca’s sold-out Hidalgo Stadium in the June 1 final hoping to become only the fourth MLS team to win the Concacaf showpiece event (the other three winners from the U.S. top-flight are former Open Cup winners D.C. United (1998), LA Galaxy (2000) and Seattle Sounders (2002)).

Schulte’s penalty preparations are pretty basic. It’s doing his homework beforehand and watching for anything the shooter might telegraph even seconds before taking his kick.

“Honestly just kind of reading the player, understanding the player’s tendencies, what they like, what they typically do, and then just getting a good read,” he said. “I don't want to give away all my secrets.”

Schulte raising the cup in a locker room with players in goggles celebrating after a mls cup win
Schulte raising the cup in a locker room with players in goggles celebrating after a mls cup win
Schulte celebrates with the MLS Cup after a star-turn in last year’s playoffs

“At the end of the day, it's a gut decision,” he admitted. “You’ve got to trust yourself and get a good push and make yourself as big as possible.”

Given his accomplishments and performing in several high-pressure situations for the Crew organization, Patrick Schulte has matured rapidly in the past two-and-a-half years in so many ways. Let's face it, not many American goalkeepers are given an opportunity to play regularly in their first MLS campaign and keep the job en route to a championship.

The learning curve has been great.

“I've had to grow up a whole lot,” he said. “Just learning how to take care of my body, how to mentally prepare for the long MLS season. We're in a system with Wilfried [Nancy, Crew head coach], it's always evolving. We're always trying new things and it's pushing you to be better.

“It's been crazy, but it's been fun to look back and see the growth that I've made,” he said of his progress from a fresh-faced teenager making his first mark in our Open Cup. “I feel like I’ve become a grown man. I want to just continue to keep pushing.”

Perhaps the scariest thing is that there’s still room for growth. Schulte is nowhere near his prime – and the sky’s the limit.

Michael Lewis can be reached at and @Soccerwriter on X. His book (ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers) isavailable for purchase.