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Anatomy of a Goal: Urena’s Back Post Opener

This week, we look at Marco Urena’s opening goal.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at San Jose Earthquakes Stan Szeto-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 24 on the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Marco Urena’s 42nd minute post-aided goal that put the San Jose Earthquakes up 1-0, as part of the 2-1 win over Crew SC on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish from the San Jose striker.

The Earthquake’s goal begins with a Jonathan Mensah turnover at midfield. Jonathan is easily dispossessed by Urena, very far up the field, and then falls victim to the less than ideal field at Avaya Stadium. In this play alone, two Columbus players slip on this turf.

As soon as Urena takes the ball, he slides it over to San Jose’s creative cog Tommy Thompson. With the ball at midfield and the Black & Gold defense scrambling, Thompson has a number of options. He can play a pass across midfield to fellow midfielder Jackson Yueill, carry the ball through the midfield, slot pass to Shea Salinas on the left flank, play a pass right back to Urena or a drop ball to Darwin Ceren.

Jonathan’s slip makes Thompson’s decision an easy one.

The above video shows Jonathan’s ill-timed slip, opening up an easy pass to Salinas and giving Urena an open run down the pitch.

As Jonathan slips, Urena easily runs past him while Artur is forced to give chase. Thompson slid the ball into Salinas on the left, who has a half field of space ahead of him with all of Crew SC’s right-sided players in the Earthquake’s defensive half.

Salinas continues to carry the ball upfield with Urena running level to him as Artur continues to chase the San Jose winger. Jonathan is highlighted because he has partially caught up to the play, but will very quickly slow up and remove himself from the action. Had Jonathan continued his run toward Urena, he may have been able to force a more difficult pass or even prevent this goal.

Toward the goal, Chris Wondolowski runs in front of Wil Trapp and toward Nicolai Naess, attempting to take both Columbus players out of the play and open the middle of the field. Center back Alex Crognale keeps his attention on Urena and wisely moves to cut off his angle on goal.

Salinas slows up as he feels both Hector Jimenez and Artur close him down, and Jonathan continues to trail the play. Crognale is totally focused on Urena, and continues his angled run at the winger while he cuts just behind Artur.

Trapp hasn’t fallen for Wondolowski’s clever run, trusting his center back to cover the veteran striker while the Black & Gold captain defends the middle third of the pitch.

Having occupied two Crew SC defenders, Salinas slides the ball into the path of Urena. Jonathan continues to trail this play and will not become involved in the effort to stop this goal. Crognale continues to monitor Urena, and the Columbus defender’s objective is to force him away from the goal, either toward the end line or toward the attacking left boundary.

Toward the back post, Naess is effectively monitoring Wondolowski, while Trapp continues to cut off any runs toward the middle of the goal.

As Urena heads to the ball he has two options. He can either continue carry the ball toward the end line or he can try to beat Crognale for a shot on goal. To this point, Crognale has done well to position himself between Urena and the goal. Jonathan continues to trail, marking no one, as the rest of the Black and Gold defense holds down the goal box.

Crognale is still well positioned in the above image. The Crew SC center back is only giving Urena a poor angle right to goalkeeper Zack Steffen. Jonathan continues to run straight ahead. By this point, he should either be paying attention to Salinas right behind him, heading toward Urena in aid of Crognale or running right toward the middle of the goal. Jonathan does none of these things.

Despite all of Crognale’s good decisions, this one slip up costs his team a goal. As Urena realizes that he has no crossing options, he attempts to cut back on Crognale to get a shot on goal. The defender gets over-ambitious and gets his front foot caught on the poor turf.

Urena is then easily be able to cut around Crognale to get an open, if difficult, shot on goal while Jonathan continues his aimless run.

The above video shows Crognale’s singular defensive slip up. Despite all of the center back’s hard work on this play, one mistake costs his team a goal.

From the side angle, you can see both how well the rest of the Columbus defense has the goal box defended and Crognale’s mistake. Rather than backing off Urena to force him to continue toward the end line, Crognale attempts to steal the ball, getting caught on his front foot.

Crognale will get a half deflection on the ball with his trailing leg, but he’s lucky that he doesn’t trip Urena for a penalty kick. The ball actually deflects into a better angle for Urena’s shot on goal.

Just behind the play, Jonathan likely could have cut off Urena’s path to goal had he continued a hard run.

With no one between him and the ball, Urena is able to take a shot or slide the ball into the path of Wondolowski. Steffen has cut of Urena’s angle to the near post, only giving up a difficult shot to the back post. Naess and Trapp have Wondolowski and the middle of the six-yard box well covered.

With only an angle at the back post, Urena slides the ball just around Zack Steffen. Naess continues to play strong defense against Wondolowski.

Urena’s shot just beats Trapp in the middle of the box, and hits the inside of the back post . . .

. . .putting San Jose up 1-0 and setting the pace for their win over the Black & Gold.


  1. Jonathan turns the ball over in the middle of the field, slips, and then totally takes himself out of the play by making an aimless defensive run downfield. The slip can be blamed on the turf, but Jonathan absolutely should have been able to make himself useful in the goal box.
  2. The turf was poor all night, with multiple players from both teams slipping at inopportune times.
  3. For all of Crognale’s great decisions, his over-ambition costs Crew SC a goal.
  4. Trapp and Naess do an excellent job cutting off a smart run by Wondolowski.