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Anatomy of a Goal: Jozy Altidore’s Season Ender

This week, we look at the Eastern Conference Final’s winning goal.

MLS: Eastern Conference Championship-Columbus Crew at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Anatomy of a Goal, where each week we dissect one goal (or near goal) from Columbus Crew SC‘s previous match.

For the final Black & Gold match of the 2017 MLS season, we take a look at Jozy Altidore’s 60th minute give-and-go goal that put Toronto FC up 1-0 as part of the aggregate win by the same score over Crew SC.

Here’s a look at the finish from the Toronto striker.

While Columbus ceded the majority of possession to their Trillium Cup rivals, the Black & Gold dictated the pace of the game for much of the first half. However, Toronto was able to slow down the game in the early second half with an Altidore injury forcing Crew SC to play the ball out multiple times, throwing off the visitor’s rhythm.

Starting of Altidore’s winner is an Alex Bono goal kick. Altidore ran toward midfield to head the kick, dragging Josh Williams with him. But, the kick sails over these opponents and heads toward Altidore’s strike partner, Sebastian Giovinco.

After Giovinco is, somehow, able to win the ball between two of the Black & Gold’s six-foot-plus center backs, the “atomic ant” attempts to move closer to the goal while matched up with Jonathan Mensah. Altidore and Victor Vazquez crash toward the Crew SC goal to provide support.

Vigilantly avoiding a foul on one of the best free kick takers in MLS, Jonathan and Lalas Abubakar stay between Giovinco and the goal while avoiding overly physical play. Altidore and Vazquez continue their support runs while Williams heads back to cover his center back partners.

Everyone arrives near Giovinco while he holds up play. Jonathan does an excellent job of forcing Toronto’s No. 10 to play with his back to the goal while also avoiding a foul. With his back toward an open Justin Morrow and with Williams cutting off his angle on a pass to Vazquez, Giovinco can either continue to carry the ball away from the goal while marked by Jonathan or drop a quick pass to Altidore.

The Italian drops a quick pass to Altidore, just slipping the ball passed Wil Trapp. Vazquez completes the third point of the passing triangle with Altidore and Giovinco, and positions himself for a quick give-and-go with his striker. Trapp, Mohammed Abu, and Williams are all near Altidore, so pay attention to their positioning in the next few images as Altidore runs, unmarked, up the middle of the Black & Gold defense.

Having received Giovinco’s flicked pass, Altidore quickly touches the ball forward to Vazquez. Abu attempts to step in front of this pass but is unable to slow down the Toronto striker. As soon as Altidore makes his pass, he makes a run directly at the Columbus goal. Trapp has not engaged with Altidore and does follow him into the goal box.

Each defender stays glued to their spot on the field as Altidore begins his run right beside Vazquez. None of the three defenders who should have stayed with Altidore attempt to slow him down.

Crew SC’s Abubakar finds himself stuck in no-man’s land, forced to choose between stopping the ball and slowing Altidore’s run.

Rather than stay with Vazquez, Abubakar decides to track Altidore. This allows Vazquez to play an inch-perfect pass into the path of his teammate.

Even though Abubakar made the correct decision to follow Altidore, he is unable to keep his footing on the slick turf.

Were it not for his slip, Abubakar would have likely been able to cut off Altidore’s angle to the back post. But he loses his balance and leaves Zack Steffen with the entire goal to cover from very close range.

Altidore sees his opening on the back post and quickly fires a shot to the right of Steffen.

Steffen, covering the near post, is nearly able to get a hand on the shot . . .

. . . but Altidore’s ball ultimately finds the back of the net.

Findings:

  1. Altidore’s run toward midfield on the goal kick was either a misjudgment or an intentional run to take Williams away from the goal and open up space for Giovinco. No matter, this run successfully creates a ton of space for Giovinco to work with, allowing him to win the ball from Columbus’s center backs.
  2. Jonathan does a great job not to foul Giovinco near the goal, but either he or Abubakar should have won initial ball. Somehow, Giovinco beats both of these much taller players on a ball that reaches him in the air.
  3. Crew SC’s defense plays very well here until Altidore makes his pass to Vazquez and runs toward goal. One of Trapp, Williams or Abu absolutely should have sprinted along with Altidore.
  4. Abubakar makes an excellent decision to mark Altidore, but just loses his balance and opens up the back post for the finish.