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Anatomy of a Goal: Kekuta Manneh’s Winner

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This week, we analyze Kekuta Manneh’s first goal for Crew SC.

MLS: Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-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 Match 18 of the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Kekuta Manneh’s 70th minute goal that put Crew SC up 2-1 as part of a 4-1 win over Montreal Impact on Saturday.

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

Until Manneh’s goal, his first in Black & Gold, Crew SC looked listless after a good start to the match. Federico Higuain opened up the scoring for Columbus in the 17th minute, but the home side gave up a quick equalizer and appeared set for another disappointing match with a blown lead. Luckily that didn’t happen.

Full disclosure, this goal is not the most technical Crew SC has scored, but it does provide a few interesting moments of skill. Specifically a moment of either individual brilliance or pure luck by Ola Kamara. The aim here is to spend a chunk of this Anatomy of a Goal showing that Kamara did intend to settle the ball into the path of Manneh rather than inadvertently settling the ball for his teammate.

Manneh’s game winner begins with a Jonathan Mensah headed clearance to Higuain. As the headed ball floats toward the Argentinian, Manneh begins his run right by Montreal wing-back Hassoun Camara.

In the magnified circle, you can just see that Higuain’s head is turned toward Manneh as he tries to wrangle a difficult bounce. Higuain can see Manneh making his run against the much slower Camara.

In the above video, you can see Columbus’ No. 10 display a deft bit of skill to juggle the ball over the defender and send a perfect one-time ball into the path of the streaking Manneh. The Crew SC attacker is in incredible form having scored five goals in his last four matches.

As Manneh chases down the ball, hidden just behind Camara, he has beaten his man and only has Wandrille Lefevre between him and the goal. At this point, Manneh has not yet put a touch on the ball.

As Lefevre begins to close him down, Manneh chests the ball forward, his first touch of the game, which is just a bit too heavy and will allow Lefevre to get in front of him.

The ball continues forward and Lefevre uses his body to take Manneh out of the play just outside the 18-yard box. Manneh doesn’t fall, though he arguably would have been given the foul call had he gone to the ground.

Camara recovers on the ball and should be able to clear it forward. Just to his right, Manneh gets around Lefevre’s screen. Kamara continues his run at pace, heading right for the ball and Camara.

Under little pressure, Camara can’t get turned quickly enough and loses the ball off of his right shin. Both Manneh and Kamara continue their runs, looking to punish Montreal for Camara’s clumsy touch.

Finally, we are at the point where this goal gets interesting. In the above video, Kamara looks to clumsily misplay the ball conveniently into the path of Manneh. After closer examination, it’s clear that Kamara fakes a shot with his left foot and intentionally settles for his teammate’s first goal. Let’s look at Kamara’s touch in stills and a few more angles.

From the broadcast camera, you can just see Kamara slow the ball with his right, trailing, foot as an unmarked Manneh looks on.

From a slightly different angle, you can see Kamara swing his left foot forward and catch the ball with his right foot. On first glance, it looks like the Kamara misses his left -footed shot and incidentally catches the ball with his right, trailing, foot. Two pieces of evidence from this video suggest otherwise.

First, watch Kamara’s head during this play. As he swings over the ball and touches it with his right foot, the Crew SC striker turns his head around to see where he left the ball. This looks like an intentional movement to watch the play that he has just set up.

Second, notice the movement of the ball in this and the remaining highlights. As Kamara touches the ball with his right foot, the ball travels back and to the left, slowing down right in the path of Manneh. Again, this looks like an intentional movement.

In the above image from the same angle, Kamara looks to be setting up a shot. He has a clear view of both Manneh and Camara. However, Kamara doesn’t rotate his hips. From this angle, a shot would land somewhere between the left post and the corner flag. Kamara, who scored his 25th goal in just over a year and a half in Columbus on Saturday, is an expert at rotating his hips toward goal. Again, this is an intentional movement.

The above photo provides a better look at Kamara’s flick back to Manneh. In this still, it appears that Kamara is swinging his right leg back and to the left, so his touch will send the ball near Manneh.

Kamara’s fake shot and deft touch stand out even more on this angle. In the above video you can see Kamara take a short windup as if he’s going to shoot, and then clearly flick the ball back and to the left with his right foot. The motion of his right foot, a quick flick, is definitely not the motion of someone who has just whiffed on a shot.

Again, Kamara winds up for his shot. Slowed down and over-analyzed, it’s clear that Kamara will not shoot the ball. However, at speed, this shot is incredibly effective at freezing the defending Camara.

Here, Kamara watches his flick back and to the left into the path of Manneh. Once again, this is an intentional motion.

With the ball now at his feet. . .

Manneh buries the shot for his first goal of the season.

But wait!

Another video has emerged, from Crew SC’s Instagram account, that provides a clearer picture of Kamara’s clever touch to Manneh. In the above video you can clearly see Kamara drag his left leg over the ball and then flick a pass back and to the left, right into the path of Manneh.

Findings:

  1. Higuain’s juggle and pass to Manneh are a great bit of individual skill. Especially important is Higuain noticing Manneh starting a run before beginning his juggle.
  2. Despite the heavy touch, Manneh never quits on this play. He provides Higuain with an outlet pass downfield, doesn’t take a dive when Lefevre impedes his forward progress, and pounces on Kamara’s flick. It’s no secret that Manneh has had a difficult 2017, but a game like this, with one goal and one assist, can go a long way to helping a player break out of a slump.
  3. Kamara does it yet again. In the middle of a chaotic play, Kamara is calm enough to fake a shot and make a trail-footed pass to his teammate. Again, the evidence clearly shows that Kamara intentionally flicked the ball back and to the left into the path of Manneh.