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Anatomy of a Goal: Ola Kamara’s Lefty Finish

This week we look at Kamara’s left-footed opening goal.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to 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 23 on the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Ola Kamara’s 15th minute left-footed goal that put Crew SC up 1-0 as part of the 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake on Saturday.

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

After a disappointing, two red-card loss at the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday night, the Black & Gold found themselves clawing to keep pace in a tight Eastern Conference playoff race. Rookie Connor Maloney earned his first start as a professional, slotting in at right wing back.

Crew SC’s opening goal begins off of a clearance by Salt Lake midfielder Kyle Beckerman. Beckerman’s half-touch only clears the ball about 15 yards up the field.

Captain Wil Trapp and Maloney are both in position to win Beckerman’s weak clearance. Trapp takes possession of the ball as Maloney heads to a wide position on the right flank.

With a defender on his right hip, Trapp drops the ball back to center-back Nicolai Naess.

Getting his first start since the 1-0 win at Minnesota United, Naess finds himself with the ball and acres yards of space and has four options. He can either carry the ball upfield until defensive pressure arrives, play a long pass to winger Justin Meram, who has begun to move toward Naess, slot a difficult pass to Artur or a pass back to Trapp.

As Meram heads toward Naess, the Crew SC center back plays a beautifully weighted ball to the feet of his teammate.

Meram receives the ball and begins his turn, defended by Beckerman. With a ball-hawking midfielder on his hip, Meram has to quickly decide whether to try and beat Beckerman off the dribble or pass to a teammate.

Meram eludes Beckerman and can either try to beat his defender off the dribble, pass to Maloney on the right wing or slide a quick ball to Artur, potentially setting up a give-and-go.

The Columbus winger takes a nifty dribble away from Beckerman and elects to make an excellent pass across the field to Maloney, who, unmarked, has yards of space to work with.

Danilo Acosta immediately heads over to defend Maloney. Seeing a defender arriving, Artur heads toward his teammate to provide a passing option. Maloney holds onto the ball, waiting for both help to arrive and his defender.

The above video shows the excellent give-and-go that Maloney and Artur execute to get around Acosta and Artur’s defender, Sunday Stephen, or Sunny. Maloney plays a short pass to Artur who then plays a ball right between Sunny and Acosta.

Here, Maloney has just made the quick pass. With his defender on his heels, Maloney immediately sets off at a sprint around Acosta. Artur plays the quick pass, setting off a sprint to the ball.

Though Maloney had a bit of a head start, Acosta is able to keep up with the rookie wing back. If Maloney beats Acosta, he will have both Kamara and Ethan Finlay as options for a quick cross.

Maloney JUST beats Acosta to the ball. Meanwhile, Finlay battles for position with Marcelo Silva. Both Silva and Justen Glad are between Finlay and the ball, making it difficult for a pass to reach the Black & Gold winger.

As the ball approaches, Finlay has yet to get into position around Silva. Glad is still in the path of the ball, while Kamara awaits a deflection or rebound.

Glad gets caught on the wrong foot and is unable to get any sort of touch on the cross. Finlay has just gotten a leg in on Silva and attempts a sliding shot on the ball. Kamara is still very open.

Finlay’s touch on the ball is deflected toward the end line where Maloney is alert and already racing Acosta to the ball. Kamara? Still unmarked.

Maloney gets to the ball, but has to beat Glad if he wants to hit a still wide-open Kamara.

The above video shows Maloney’s confident pass through the legs of Glad. Maloney may have gotten lucky, but that lucky pass will become his first professional assist.

From an extra angle you can see Maloney’s angle compared to Kamara. Maloney can see that a pass to his teammate would result in a shot on goal. Kamara is mystifyingly still unmarked.

With the ball through Glad’s legs and headed toward Kamara, the Crew SC striker has an open shot on goal. As Kamara approaches the ball, he decides where to place his shot and with which foot to hit the ball.

A right-footed shot, his natural foot, would be more powerful, but might not have the correct bend. A left-footed shot would be more difficult, but would place the ball in the face of the goal.

Kamara opts for the higher percentage shot with his weak foot. . .

. . . and smashes the ball into the roof of the net.

Findings:

  1. Maloney’s hustle makes this goal. The rookie wingback plays a brilliant give-and-go with Artur and out hustles Acosta to send in a cross. He then stays switched on and beast Acosta to Finlay’s deflected shot, assisting Kamara’s goal.
  2. Even though Finlay’s shot is ultimately deflected, you have to respect the winger’s loyalty to the play. Finlay throws himself around the big body of Silva and gets enough on the ball to direct it into the path of Maloney.
  3. Kamara is teaching teams to respect shots from both his left and right foot. The Crew SC striker has been criticized for missing goals that seem simple (though this isn’t backed up by the expected goals statistic), but he smashes this ball right into the roof of the net.