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Anatomy of a Goal: Justin Meram’s Slip-In Winner

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This week, we look at Justin Meram’s game-winning goal.

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 25 on the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Justin Meram’s 73rd minute finish that put the Crew SC up 2-1, as part of the 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

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

The Black & Gold evened the match with a first half goal by Kekuta Manneh, and looked to break Chicago’s unbeaten streak when scoring first. Columbus put out a speedy lineup, looking to catch the Fire in transition or off turnovers, and that’s exactly how all three of the Black & Gold’s goals were scored.

Meram’s game winner begins off of a Matt Polster turnover at midfield. In possession of the ball, Chicago made multiple passes back and forth across the midfield line before Crew SC winger Cristian Martinez got in the way of Polster’s pass, deflecting the ball to midfielder Wil Trapp.

When Trapp receives the ball, he can either carry the ball between Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty, play a quick pass back up the field to Martinez, slot a ball into the path of Ola Kamara, a longer pass across the field to Meram, or a quick square pass to Artur.

As Trapp makes his decision, Waylon Francis makes an excellent run right behind the highlighted Schweinsteiger, who nevers notice a wide-open Francis running all the way down the left flank.

Trapp moves the ball to Martinez, who is defended by Polster. With the Chicago right back providing pressure, Martinez dribbles the ball back toward his defensive half.

Martinez makes a quick pass right back to Wil Trapp, who is now aware of Francis’ run behind Schweinsteiger, who fails to notice the left back.

For some reason, Polster decides to use Martinez as leverage to change direction, pushing the Columbus winger in the throat and earning himself a yellow card after the play ends.

With the ball at his feet and Polster bearing down, Trapp has to quickly get rid of the ball. He can either play a pass over the head of the oblivious-to-Francis Schweinsteiger, play a difficult pass downfield to Kamara or knock a square pass to Artur.

Trapp notices that Schweinsteiger is looking at the ball while Francis runs, unabated, behind him, so the Black & Gold captain plays one of his excellent long passes right into the path of his wingback.

Francis receives Trapp’s pass and pushes the ball forward. With Polster having lost the ball at midfield and Schweinsteiger having decided to take this play off, Chicago center-back Johan Kappelhof has to slide over to defend Francis.

Kamara runs in the channel between the two Fire center backs and, with Kappelhof sliding over to mark Francis, Joao Meira must slide over to mark Kamara.

With the three other members of the Chicago backline occupied or out of the play, left back Patrick Doody, who was up the field just as the Fire attacked the ball just seconds before, is forced to chase a wide open Meram. There are no other defenders between Meram and the goal.

In control of the ball, Francis and has three options as Kappelhof attempts to close him down. He can continue to carry the ball toward the goal into a better crossing position, play a quick pass, likely on the ground, into the path of Kamara or go long to Meram, who is still outpacing Doody.

Francis decides to continue carrying the ball forward. As he does this, the referee, signals that he has played the Crew SC advantage from Polster’s foul on Martinez.

Meanwhile, as Kamara enters the box he is immediately grabbed on the shoulder and slowed down by Meira. Had Kamara gone to the ground he may have won a penalty, but the Columbus striker stays on his feet and the play continues.

Kappelhof finally closes down Francis who must now cross the ball into the box. Francis has Kamara, defended by Meira, and Meram, defended by no one, as options for a cross.

From the side angle, you can see that Kamara is just offside as Francis prepares to cross the ball. Meram, however, is onside and about five feet ahead of Doody.

As Francis makes his cross, Kamara is definitely offside while Meram continues his run.

Francis’ ball is destined for Meram, who has beaten Doody and has only former teammate Matt Lampson between him and the back of the net.

If you read the title of this article, you know that Meram scores, so let’s take a look at his surprisingly difficult finish from two different angles before we look at the still frames.

After Francis’ spot-on cross, Meram has to decide how to redirect the ball into the net. A left-footed finish will be difficult, and a right-footed slide-in will have to be inch perfect.

Meram decides to use his right foot, and just gets to the ball with the outside of that foot . . .

. . . and put’s the Black & Gold ahead for good.

Findings:

  1. This goal, as with all three of Crew SC’s goals, is a result of pressuring Chicago and scoring on transition. Gregg Berhalter made a tactical decision to cede possession to Chicago and focus on creating opportunities in transition and that decision paid off.
  2. Martinez’s defensive hustle and smart pass back to Trapp show why many Columbus supporters want to see much more of this young Panamanian.
  3. Trapp’s recognition that Schweinsteiger had mentally checked out of this play and his excellent pass to Francis were instrumental in creating this goal.
  4. Francis took advantage of his starting opportunity on this play, making an excellent run down the field and providing a perfect cross.
  5. Meram’s finish was much more difficult than it looks at first glance, and could spark another run of goals from the Black a& Gold winger.