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Anatomy of a Goal: Ola Kamara’s corner kick equalizer

This week, we look at an Ola Kamara set piece finish.

MLS: Sporting KC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-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 29 on the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Ola Kamara’s 46th minute header that put Crew SC level with Sporting Kansas City at 1-1, as part of the 1-1 draw on Sunday.

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

This week’s Anatomy of a goal is a little different than previous weeks. Specifically, we’ll break down a goal from a corner kick for the first time this season. Hopefully, this can give insight into how and what the Black & Gold do on corners and similar free kicks.

First, let’s look at which players are involved. At the top of the box is Federico Higuain. In previous matches Higuain would be the one taking the kick, however with the addition of dead ball specialist Pedro Santos, Higuain is now put into a different role.

Beside Higuain is center back Josh Williams joined by fellow center back Jonathan Mensah. Both of these tall players (Williams and Jonathan are both 6-foot-2) act as target men for Santos’ cross.

Kamara and Justin Meram are closer to the goal and look to create chaos and open space for the big men behind them. Both players look to play a flicked ball into the face of the goal.

Finally, Jukka Raitala is the last Crew SC player in the box. Raitala attempts to clean up a lose ball that gets by the center backs.

Now, let’s look at where the players will actually go on this play.

Starting with Higuain, the Columbus number 10 will stick right to his spot. The aim here is for Higuain to be able to fire a shot back into the box should something be cleared to him.

Moving toward the goal, Williams and Raitala will make complimentary runs. Raitala will cross right behind Williams and make a run toward the back post. At the back post, Raitala will attempt to send a ball on goal if it gets past Williams and Jonathan. Williams cuts slightly toward the corner but stays near the middle of the field. The big center back will look to head a ball on goal.

Jonathan has been the main target for the Black & Gold when he has been in for corner kicks. The big center back will stay right in the middle of the box and attempt to out-jump his defender.

Closer to Santos, both Kamara and Meram will both run toward the front post and attempt to flick a ball into the box or flick a skim a shot into the goal.

Shifting focus to the defense, you can see that each Crew SC attacker is defended by one Sporting defender. Higuain is left unmarked, with Kansas City likely knowing that the No. 10 will act as a safety valve.

Both SKC defenders on the near post are looking directly at Kamara and Meram, and will look to help out on either of those attackers.

The video above shows the most controversial aspect of this goal. As the video shows, Kamara gives a pretty firm shove to Ilie Sanchez.

Watching the video and looking at the above image, there is no question that Kamara uses a full shove on Sanchez in order to separate himself from the midfielder. This absolutely could have been called a foul, but the push occurred before the ball was kicked so potentially that is why a foul wasn’t called.

With Kamara having separated himself from Sanchez to run in on the goal, Williams and Raitala will now make their coordinated move. As Williams cuts toward the goal, Raitala runs right behind him, and in the process shakes off his defender.

Zoomed in, you can see some of the confusion created by Williams and Raitala. Matt Besler is the only defender who doesn’t look confused, and continues to mark Williams who is heading toward the goal.

Back to Kamara, the striker created space from Sanchez and runs toward the planned near-post kick. Kamara’s run pulled both Sporting defenders away from the near post and toward the Columbus striker. As they move toward Kamara, the defenders open up space in the middle of the goal and on the near post.

As the ball heads toward Meram, the winger jumps in anticipation of a header though the ball will be too high for him to reach. Williams filled in the space vacated by the extra defenders that Kamara drew while Raitala continues his run to the back post.

The ball goes over Meram’s head right into the path of Kamara.

Kamara is able to skip the ball off his head, redirecting the ball goal-ward. Raitala slowed his run, but still may be able to get on the end of a back-post ball.

From this angle, you can see the space in front of goal that was vacated by Kamara’s defender-grabbing run. He heads the ball right to the space vacated by the near post defender.

Kamara’s excellent shot goes just above the head of Tim Melia, who had an excellent match . . .

. . . and levels the match.

Findings:

  1. This goal shows one example of Crew SC’s movement on a corner kick. It’s not a complicated maneuver, but it’s clear that Columbus has practiced this exact play.
  2. Raitala and Williams’ clever, intersecting runs confuse the defense and create space. Similarly, Kamara’s near post run draws three defenders and opens up space on goal.
  3. Santos plays a perfect ball right onto Kamara’s head, who expertly redirects the ball into the back of the net.