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Anatomy of a Goal: Justin Meram’s Breakaway

This week we look at the game-winner from Meram.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-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 Week Five of the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Justin Meram’s 13th minute breakaway goal that put Crew SC up 1-0 as part of the 2-0 win over Orlando City on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish from the Crew SC winger.

Through the first 12 minutes of the match, the Crew SC players were still trying to find their footing. Orlando employed a high press that forced Columbus goalkeeper Zack Steffen to make some difficult plays out of the back.

Meram’s game-winning goal starts with a Crew SC press. Above, you can see City center-back Jose Aja in position to receive a pass from goalkeeper Joe Bendik. As the pass approaches, Federico Higuain and Ola Kamara begin to press, cutting off Aja’s safety valve to his goalkeeper and his movement down the field.

After dispossessing Aja, Higuain plays a pass to midfielder Wil Trapp. Here, you can see that Trapp has three options: Either Meram streaking down the left side of the field between Aja and Antonio Nocerino, Ola Kamara in an offside position near Jonathan Spector or Ethan Finlay wide rigth.

In this still shot, you can see that Finlay probably would have been the best option. Spector has yet to notice the Crew SC winger, and Trapp has a simple passing angle right into the path of Finlay.

However, Trapp opts to play the ball to an offside Ola Kamara. OCSC right back Will Johnson is able to intercept this pass and plays a simple ball to Aja.

Pay attention to the positioning of Meram and Johnson in the image above. Meram had just made a run down the left side of the pitch and Johnson had moved into the middle of the field to dispossess Trapp. The Orlando City right back may notice that Meram is unmarked, but he does not move towards the winger and instead turns back toward the Black & Gold half.

Here, Orlando striker Carlos Rivas receives a ball from Aja, and streaks down the middle of the pitch. Notice Artur running right behind Rivas.

Artur makes an incredible hustle play to get to the side of Rivas and make a clean, dispossessing tackle.

With the ball at his feet, Artur’s eyes are locked downfield where he can see Kamara standing unmarked (and probably offside) between Spector and Johnson.

Here is where this goal really starts. Meram stayed in a wide left position, but Johnson (hidden under the Audi goal logo) is occupied by the streaking Kamara. You can just see that Johnson’s back is turned to Meram.

As Artur’s ball beats the Orlando backline, Johnson is still staring right at the Crew SC striker, insisting that Kamara is offside (he probably was). Meanwhile, Johnson has no idea that Meram started his run onside and is running unmarked at a full sprint.

Meram and Kamara are both in position to receive Artur’s lofted ball. Johnson, in the magnified circle, is still upset that the linesman hasn’t raised an offside flag and totally switched off from the play, walking back toward his defensive end. Spector is also calling for the offside flag, but also in a race to get between the ball and the goal. The Crew SC striker, maybe knowing that he was offside, cuts his run short so that Meram can take possession.

The Columbus winger, now in possession of the ball, has two options: He can either head right, toward the middle of the goal, to have more space to beat the Orlando goalkeeper or stay on his left foot and avoid the onrushing defender. Spector’s defensive run is angled toward the middle of the goal, trying to force Meram onto his weaker (left) foot and provide Bendik with a better angle to make a save.

Spector’s smart defensive play should not be overlooked. Running from the midfield, the City center back likely knows that Meram plays as an inverted winger and loves to start left but cut back to his right for a shot. Shielding Meram’s right foot, Spector cuts off the his path to goal, forcing Meram into a more difficult angle with his left foot in the best position to shoot.

Now, Meram must decide whether he will take a shot with his left foot or attempt to cut back on Spector and hit the “Meram Meat Hook” with his right foot.

Heavily shielding Meram’s right side, Spector makes Meram’s decision for him, and the Crew SC winger fires a left footed shot to the back post.

And Crew SC take a 1-0 lead.

Findings:

1. The start of this goal gives us a quick look at the Crew SC high press in action. The press lead directly to Trapp having the ball at his feet, in a position to put someone in on goal. While Trapp was unable spring Finlay or Kamara, this chance shows how effective a high press can be for Crew SC.

2. Johnson totally switched off during this play. Distracted by Kamara’s (potentially) offside run, Johnson doesn’t notice Meram running toward goal onside and unmarked.

3. Just like last week, Crew SC score another goal on a long pass following a breakaway. Artur played a perfectly weighted ball over the Orlando City backline to spring Meram.

4. Eschewing his traditional “Meram Meat Hook,” the winger hit a near perfect ball past Bendik. Spector made an incredible defensive play, taking away the “Meat Hook” and getting a slight deflection on Meram’s left-footed-shot.