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Anatomy of a Goal: Manneh’s long-range strike

This week we look at Kekuta Manneh’s blast.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Minnesota United FC Bruce Kluckhohn-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 20 of the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Kekuta Manneh’s 58th minute long-range blast that put Crew SC up 1-0 as part of their 1-0 win over Minnesota United.

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

Both teams struggled to get going for much of this match, with the Black & Gold recording only four shots before Manneh’s goal. Crew SC’s 3-4-3 formation, without both Justin Meram and Federico Higuain, lacked the creative force that Columbus typically relies on to provide quality chances. Minnesota started the second half well, forcing Zack Steffen to make two saves in the early part of the half.

Manneh’s game-winner began off a Loon turnover, with Jukka Raitala arguably playing the ball off of his arm. Playing in the middle of the back three, Alex Crognale picks up the turnover and immediately has multiple passing options: a quick pass to Josh Williams, a pass downfield to Wil Trapp, a pass further downfield to (an offscreen) Mohammed Abu or a,very short pass to Lalas Abubakar.

Crognale spots Abu down the field and opts to slot the ball to the Ghanian midfielder.

Abu, with space to turn, quickly plays the ball to his captain to start off the counterattack.

With the ball and space to work, Trapp has multiple options: a quick pass to Hector Jimenez on the wing, carry the ball forward until defensive pressure arrives, a pass downfield to Manneh, or a quick pass back to Abu.

Notice Ibson’s positioning during this play. Ibson, standing in the middle of Trapp’s decision tree, is blocking Trapp’s passing angle to Manneh. Ibson is also the closest defender to Trapp, but will decide not to engage with Columbus’ captain.

Trapp decides to carry the ball downfield. As he does, the midfielder still has the option to pass to Jimenez on his right and now a clear passing lane to Manneh has emerged. Ibson has barely moved, so Trapp decides to continue to carry the ball downfield.

After covering about 25 yards, Trapp is finally approaching defensive pressure from Minnesota midfielder Kevin Venegas. Venegas is forced to cover Trapp because both Ibson and Sam Cronin have failed to do so. Seeing Venegas shift to the player he should be marking, Cronin rushes toward Manneh. This defensive slip by the Loons will provide Trapp with a quick window to slot the ball onto the feet of Manneh.

Trapp makes the pass to Manneh as Cronin sprints toward the winger. Manneh will briefly hold the ball at his feet rather than continue his motion forward.

With the ball at his feet, and Cronin sprinting to catch up, Manneh will do a quick turn that uses the momentum of the Loon midfielder as a way to create space.

As you can see in the above video, Manneh waits for Cronin to arrive and then quickly spins away, sending Cronin six or seven yards passed and setting Manneh into the open field.

After completing his turn, Manneh finds himself with yards of space and available passes to Jimenez and Ethan Finlay. Manneh will carry the ball forward to look for defensive pressure.

As the Black & Gold winger heads toward the goal, and with Cronin scrambling to get back into a defensive position, Manneh’s available passing options are Jimenez (to his right) and Finlay (straight ahead). Additionally, Manneh can carry the ball toward goal until pressure arrives.

Cronin doesn’t arrive in time and neither do any of the other Loon defenders. So, Manneh decides to take a shot from about 25 yards out... and you’ll have to wait to see if he scores (spoiler alert: he does).

The question this shot, and subsequent goal, ask is why didn’t one of United’s deep-lying defenders step up to help Cronin and challenge Manneh. The answer to that question is Finlay.

The above video shows Finlay quickly run from the corner of the semicircle to the middle of the top of the 18-yard-box. In doing this, Finlay occupies both Minnesota defenders, preventing either from stepping up to defend Manneh and opening up a lane for the shot and subsequent goal.

Just after the Crew SC match at Atlanta, Gregg Berhalter commented on the importance of Finlay to Crew SC’s success. Even without touching the ball, Finlay is instrumental in creating the space necessary for Manneh’s shot and goal. Let’s look at Finlay’s movement and impact on this play.

As he enters the frame, Finlay is defended by Justin Davis. The defender likely sees Jimenez running unmarked on his left and is hesitant to totally follow Finlay’s run, which would open up space for Manneh to head right.

Finlay can either run into the channel between Davis and Joseph Greenspan or he can continue his run across the face of Greenspan.

Finlay continues across the channel and into the path of Greenspan. As Finlay runs along the offside line, while staying onside, the rest of the play will hinge on Greenspan’s next decision. If Greenspan decides to step to Manneh, Finlay will be open for a quick through pass. If Greenspan sticks with Finlay, Manneh will have the opportunity to shoot or continue in on goal.

Greenspan, slowed by Finlay, sticks with Columbus’s right winger. Davis moves toward Manneh, closing his path to the right.

As Greenspan shifts toward Manneh, the Crew SC winger decides to take his shot on goal. Manneh’s shot will slot right into the space just vacated by Greenspan.

The star in the above image represents Finlay’s starting spot in this section of his run. Notice how much space and time he creates for Manneh just by making a simple five-yard run across the face of two defenders.

And Manneh’s shot finds the back of the net.


  1. Once again, the Black & Gold find the team’s goal by playing the most simple passes available. Manneh’s excellent shot is the most difficult portion of this play.
  2. Trapp showed discipline by carrying the ball down the field rather than playing a quick long ball as he has done in years past. The midfielder has seemed much more willing to dribble downfield this season than in previous years.
  3. Manneh’s quick turn was an incredibly intelligent move to use his defender’s on momentum as an advantage. An in-form Manneh making these plays could pay huge dividends for Crew SC.
  4. Finlay played a huge part in this goal despite not touching the ball. If Finlay can make smart, incisive runs, the goals will eventually come.