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Anatomy of a Goal: Alex Muyl’s Game Winner

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This week we look at the Red Bulls’ game winner.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at New York Red Bulls Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

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

For Week 8 on the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Alex Muyl’s 11th minute tap-in goal that put New York Red Bulls up 1-0 as part of the Red Bulls’ 2-0 win over Crew SC on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish from the Red Bulls’ winger.

Up to this point in the match, Crew SC was reeling. Columbus central midfielder Artur broke his wrist in the first minute of the match, and his teammates watched him writhe in pain on the pitch until finally coming off in the sixth minute. Crew SC clearly had not settled back into the game after Artur’s injury, frequently turning over the ball to the Red Bull high press, and lacking any sort of on-field cohesion.

The Red Bulls’ first goal starts just seconds before with a pass out of the back from New York left back Kemar Lawrence to teammate, and winger, Daniel Royer. When Royer receives the ball, he is closed down by Wil Trapp and Harrison Afful, but still has three legitimate passing options: an easy drop pass to Felipe, a through ball to Sacha Kljestan, or a more difficult pass over the Columbus defense to an offside Bradley-Wright Phillips.

Lawrence, just to the right of this image, is integral to the Red Bulls’ opening goal, making the initial pass to Royer, and then rushing downfield to make the eventual assist.

Royer opts for the easy pass to Felipe, who you can see has already identified a wide open Kljestan. If Felipe is able to make a quick pass, he can split Afful and Trapp, and spring Kljestan toward the Crew SC goal. On the bottom right of this image, note Lawrence, sprinting downfield.

As Felipe receives the ball, he makes an incisive, one-touch pass to Kljestan, easily splitting Afful and Trapp. At the bottom of this image, Lawrence continues his run downfield. Niko Hansen should be sprinting with Lawrence, trying to cut off his angle, but Hansen instead jogs down the field, seemingly oblivious to the Red Bulls’ left back. Afful, not marking anyone, will begin to run downfield, and will continue to not mark anyone.

Kljestan, is now in possession of the ball and has two options: a difficult pass to his striker, Bradley Wright-Phillips, or continuing his attack toward the goal. Lawrence, still not marked, is steaming downfield but just out of the sight of Kljestan.

Pay attention to Wright-Phillips’s run over the next few images. The Red Bulls’ striker will slightly arc away from Crognale and into the path of Nicolai Naess. Once Naess picks him up, Wright-Phillips will then angle his run back into Crognale’s zone, opening up space for Muyl and getting in Crognale’s way just enough to slow down the Crew SC center back.

As you can see, Wright-Phillips has run just far enough away from Crognale and close enough to Naess that the Norewegian now has the responsibility to cover him. As Kljestan moves the ball downfield, Wright-Phillips will angle his run right into the path of Crognale.

Just behind Afful, Muyl is chased by Jukka Raitala. Raitala will fail to get in front of Muyl.

Kljestan now can make a difficult pass to one of his two attacking players, or can continue to attack the goal while Lawrence sprints downfield on an overlapping run. Afful continues to not cover anyone.

Kljestan can now see Lawrence completing his overlap to the left. Both Wright-Phillips and Muyl are in an offside position so Kljestan opts for the easy pass to Lawrence, who has beaten a ball-watching Afful.

Right as Kljestan makes his pass to Lawrence, this angle shows the Crew SC offside line. Alex Crognale has cut off Kljestan’s angle on the goal, potentially expecting Afful to be covering Lawrence, who is clearly onside. However, Afful is multiple steps behind Lawrence, and has no chance of getting in front of the Red Bulls’ left back.

Before we look at Lawrence’s assist to Muyl, let’s examine Wright-Phillips’s movement. The Red Bulls’ striker has run from Naess’s zone into the path of Crognale. Though he is offside, Wright-Phillips is able to set a screen on the Crew SC center-back, preventing Crognale from getting his long legs into the path of Lawrence’s eventual cross.

Take a look at the video above and pay attention to Wright-Phillip’s brilliant movement from start to finish. Wright-Phillips never touches the ball, but is a vital cog in this Red Bulls goal.

Back to the goal. First, note Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen’s positioning. Steffen has cut off Lawrence’s angle on the near post, and forcing him into either a difficult shot or a pass across the front of the goal. Steffen’s college teammate, Crognale, slowed by Wright-Phillips, has taken an angle to the center of the goal in hopes of cutting off Lawrence’s crossing angle.

Muyl has gone from offside to onside, and is already ahead of Raitala. Meanwhile, Afful continues to not cover anyone.

The only question on Lawrence’s assist is whether Muyl was onside, and it’s clear from the above image that he is onside.

As Lawrence crosses the ball to Muyl, Naess and Steffen are the last line of defense for Crew SC. Naess is able to get a foot on the ball, deflecting it into the path of Muyl and an onrushing Steffen. Steffen immediately heads toward the ball, trying to cut off Muyl’s angle on goal.

In the above video, you can see that though Steffen has gotten into a good position on the ball, Muyl’s first touch was just good (or lucky) enough to deflect out of the path of the Crew SC goalkeeper. There was nothing more that Steffen could have done to prevent Muyl’s game-winner.

Findings:

  1. Everything went wrong for the Crew SC defense on this goal. While Crognale and Naess at least attempted to get in front of the ball, both were occupied by Wright-Phillips and ultimately unable to do anything. Afful makes a 45-yard run without covering anyone, and Raitala offers no help on the back side.
  2. Wright-Phillips’ run in the channel between the Crew SC center backs totally opens up Muyl for the eventual goal. Runs like this are what make Wright-Phillips one of the best strikers in MLS.
  3. Lawrence is the engine that runs this goal. From his entry pass to Royer to his 80-yard run for the eventual assist, Lawrence is the key Red Bull in this goal.