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Anatomy of a Goal: The Pedro (to Ola) Connection

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This week we look at Ola Kamara’s game opening goal off of a Pedro Santos assist.

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 27 on the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Ola Kamara’s 45th minute game opening goal, assisted by new Designated Player Pedro Santos, that put Crew SC up 1-0 as part of the 2-0 win over the LA Galaxy on Saturday.

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

Columbus dominated the early goings of this match, with new DP Santos drawing a red card on LA left back Ashley Cole. After a missed penalty kick by Federico Higuain, it looked like the Black & Gold might be in for a match of missed opportunities, but nonetheless the team continued to possess the ball and push for a goal.

Crew SC’s opening goal begins with an errant pass from LA’s Gyasi Zardes to Bradford Jamieson IV. Columbus captain, Wil Trapp easily steps in front of the headed ball, denying the Galaxy’s attempt to move forward.

Trapp heads a ball to the Black & Gold’s attacking fulcrum, Higuain.

Higuain takes a few deft touches to bring the ball down, and then knocks a pass into the path of Mohammed Abu, who makes a clever run around Joao Pedro and Jonathan dos Santos.

With the ball at his feet and dos Santos shifting over to provide defensive cover, Abu can attempt a difficult through pass, or ball over the top, to Kamara, try to beat dos Santos off the dribble or slide the ball over to Santos.

Abu pushes the ball out to Santos, who has yards of space between him and the Galaxy defensive midfielder Rafael Garcia.

Santos continues forward, and has can either continue his dribble or try to slot in an early through pass to Kamara.

With Garcia backpedaling, Santos decides to continue carrying the ball up the field. Finally met with defensive resistance in the form of dos Santos, Pedro now has three options: continue his dribble and try to beat dos Santos and Garcia, chip a ball over the top to Kamara or slide the ball over to Hector Jimenez running unmarked on the right flank.

Santos plays in Jimenez, but his pass is a bit too heavily and toward the end line, leaving Jimenez and Garcia are in a footrace to the ball before it goes out of bounds.

Jimenez beats Garcia but doesn’t have any room for a cross. Instead, Jimenez cycles back out toward the sideline, finding Pedro near the touch line.

With the ball, and the beginnings of a passing triangle forming, Santos can play a square pass to an open Trapp, dribble into the space vacated by Jimenez or just hold onto the ball as the play develops or knock a touch pass right back to Jimenez.

Santos holds onto the ball as Jimenez drops in behind him. As we’ve see many times when the Berhalter system has been executed successfully, Crew SC have a passing triangle/”rondo” on the sideline with Santos, Trapp and Jimenez. Dos Santos has the unenviable position of being the lone defender in the middle of the triangle.

If executed correctly, this triangle should allow Columbus’ three attackers to pass the ball around the defender until one of the three is able to make a move into a more valuable attacking space.

Santos begins the passing triangle with a quick touch to Trapp who continues the triangle by finding Jimenez.

Neither Garcia nor fellow LA defender Dave Romney want any part of this passing triangle, leaving dos Santos to defend by himself.

As dos Santos shifts his defensive efforts, Jimenez slides the ball back over to Santos, likely frustrating the Galaxy defender. Romney and Garcia are still content to let dos Santos defend by himself.

Trapp then cuts out of the passing triangle, attempting to take either Romney or Garcia with him, or to be left unmarked for a chipped pass. As Trapp leaves the triangle, Higuain heads over to fill in Trapp’s spot, forming a new triangle as Santos holds onto the ball.

Trapp takes Romney with him out of the circle as Santos slides a pass over to Higuain. As Romney leaves, Pedro replaces him as an extra defender.

When Higuain sees Santos’ pass, he turns up field to form a new triangle with Justin Meram and Trapp, both of whom are immediate passing options. The Black & Gold’s No. 10 still has Santos as a safety valve on the touch line.

Higuain sends the ball back to Santos, who is now closed down by both Garcia and Pedro.

Sensing that both LA defenders are paying attention to Santos, Higuain makes a run much like Trapp’s previous run, but right between Pedro and Garcia. Once again, this run should either take one of the defenders out of the play or should leave Higuain open for a chipped pass. By running between the two defenders, Higuain may be able to cause confusion as to which defender should be following him.

Higuain’s run does exactly that with Garcia and Pedro both attempting to defend him. Now Santos is unmarked and has multiple options: a chipped pass to Higuain, a quick pass to Trapp, he can dribble toward the center of the field or a drop ball to Abu.

With multiple yards of space created by Higuain’s excellent run, Santos decides to carry the ball into the middle of the field as the play develops.

As Santos carries forward, he is met with a plethora of options: a drop ball to Abu, continue his dribble into the path of Zardes, a difficult pass to Kamara (who is just to the left of the image), a through ball to Meram or a lofted ball to Higuain, who is definitely offside.

Santos decides to thread the needle with a no-look-pass that goes between Meram and Higuain and right into the path of Kamara.

Now, the question is whether Kamara was offside when the pass was played. Above is a still frame from just before the pass is played. In this frame, Higuain is definitely offside while Kamara (whose yellow shoe you can just see) appears to be even with the final defender’s, Pele van Anholt, elbow.

Above is a still frame from right when the pass is played. Higuain is clearly offside. The zoomed in section shows Kamara and van Anholt at the moment the pass was played. It’s very difficult to tell whether Kamara is on or offside, but he looks to be almost exactly level.

It should be noted that every goal is reviewed by the VAR and therefore it was determined that Kamara was onside and no review was needed.

Back to the goal, as the ball heads toward Kamara, he is lining up to fire a one-touch-shot on goal.

Kamara is able to turn on Santos’ perfectly weighted pass . . .

. . . and easily scores the game-opening goal.

  1. The Black & Gold offense is lethal when it successfully runs passing triangles.
  2. Both Higuain and Trapp made excellent runs into and out of the passing triangles. These runs opened up space, and Higuain’s run created enough defensive chaos to set up this goal.
  3. Santos’s no-look pass to Kamara was perfect. It’s difficult to tell whether Santos merely played the ball on the ground into a dangerous area or whether he intended to play the ball to Kamara, but the fact that it fell perfectly to the striker’s feet suggests that Santos intended to pass to Kamara.
  4. It’s difficult to tell whether Kamara was onside, but considering the video referee reviews every goal, it was determined he was in a legal playing space.