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Anatomy of a Goal: Ola Kamara’s Equalizer

A look at the tying goal against TFC.

MLS: Toronto FC at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

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

For Week 7 on the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Ola Kamara’s 37th minute tap-in goal that put Crew SC level with Toronto FC at 1-1, as part of the 2-1 win on Saturday.

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

In the 20th minute, Jozy Altidore put Toronto in the lead with a headed goal off a Victor Vazquez corner kick. Toronto controlled much of the first 37 minutes, but Columbus begun to settle down and get back into this match.

Kamara’s equalizing goal begins with a TFC throw in. Toronto left center-back Justin Morrow had three options in the above photo: center midfielder Michael Bradley, left midfielder Raheem Edwards, and center midfielder Armando Cooper. An unmarked Bradley was probably the best option, but Morrow instead opted to make a short throw to Cooper. Morrow’s throw barely reached Cooper, who was easily dispossessed by Crew SC winger Niko Hansen.

Above, notice that Crew SC attacking midfielder Federico Higuain is moving ahead of Morrow even before Hansen receives the bad throw in.

Having received Morrow’s errant throw in, Hansen plays a quick, safe ball to Higuain. Like many goals, the Crew SC equalizer hangs multiple decisions. This finish is the direct result of the Black & Gold rookie making multiple good choices in his first start for the Columbus.

Here, Hansen could have played a quick square ball to Artur or a longer pass to Kamara, but he instead leaned on Crew SC’s veteran playmaker and that decision resulted in the goal.

Immediately after Hansen passes to Higuain, he makes an overlapping run along the touchline, dragging Morrow with him. Higuain now has three options: an early through ball to a goal-bound Kamara; a difficult square pass, around Bradley, to Justin Meram; or to slowdown his run and make a pass to the overlapping Hansen.

Seeing Hansen beat Morrow, Cooper shifts off of Higuain and onto the winger. This small movement opens up a passing lane behind Cooper, and into the path of the speedy Hansen.

Niko continues his run at full pace, and Higuain plays an inch-perfect through ball behind Cooper and into the path of the Crew SC winger. Hansen’s speed sends him goal-bound with space between him and the next defender.

Having received the ball and beaten both Morrow and Cooper, Hansen now has three options. He can continue his dribble forward and force Toronto center-back, and Ohio native, Nick Hagglund to pick him up; he could play a difficult pass to Kamara, who would potentially have a shot on goal; or, he could play an easy pass into the path of Meram.

The Crew SC winger makes the wise decision to continue his dribble, driving himself closer to the goal and forcing Hagglund to leave Kamara, who is running the channel between the Toronto center backs, and open up space for a pass to the striker.

Again, Hansen has a decision to make. He could pass the ball into the path of Kamara, who is onside and heading toward the goal or he could play into the path of Meram, who is unmarked but somewhat shielded by Michael Bradley.

From this angle on the same play, you can better see why Hansen made the correct decision to slot the ball into Kamara. Here you can see that Bradley might have been able to get to a pass to Meram and that Kamara was onside and only marked from behind.

Hansen makes the decision to send Kamara in on goal with a pass through the legs of Hagglund. Notice that Hansen plays this ball on the ground rather than sending in a lofted cross. The distance to goal and angle here obviously ask for a low pass, but Crew SC teams of the past have tended to play those goal-entry-passes in the air, to the ghost of 2015’s Kei Kamara.

From this angle, it’s hard to tell whether the Crew SC striker is onside.

From the side, it’s clear that Kamara has slowed his run just enough to stay onside. Rather than maintain his defensive run on Kamara, Toronto center-back Eriq Zavaleta has decided to drop off of the Crew SC striker, hastily trying to make an offside claim while also covering the onrushing Meram.

As Hansen’s pass speeds beneath Hagglund’s legs, you can see that Meram’s continued run has put Zavaleta into the unenviable position of having to cover two players at once. Again, instead of staying with Kamara, Zavaleta halfheartedly pleads for offside while putting himself into the path of Meram.

Kamara receives the ball in the perfect position to tie the game up for Crew SC.

Findings:

  1. This goal is the direct result of Hansen’s good decisions. First, he plays the easy ball to Higuain and continues his run down the sideline. Then, he dribbles in on goal and forces Hagglund to commit to defending him before making a pass. Finally, the rookie slots the ball to Kamara for the equalizer. Hansen’s decision-making is his first MLS start shows why Crew SC head coach Gregg Berhalter relied on the winger.
  2. Higuain once again provides a spark to an attack. Last week, Pipa’s absence was evident, with Columbus being shutout for the first time in 2017. On Saturday, Higuain directly contributed to both of the Black & Gold’s goals.
  3. Kamara ran the channel, and deftly held up his run to stay onside and score the equalizing goal. His movement has been excellent this season, and his goal on Saturday was yet another notch in an impressive MLS career. As well, Crew SC have finally started playing Ola the ball to his feet rather than sending in a lofted cross like the team was 2016.