Welcome to the Anatomy of a Goal, where each week we dissect one goal (or near goal) from Columbus Crew SC‘s previous match.
For match 31 of the 2017 MLS Season, we take a look at Justin Meram’s 54th minute transition goal that put Crew SC up 2-1 as part of the 3-2 win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.
Here’s a look at the finish from the Columbus winger.
The Black & Gold took an early lead against New York, but the Red Bulls evened the score a few minutes later.
This goal does a good job of showing how the Berhalter system has grown during this season. The ball is still played out of the back, but instead of multiple, possession-based passes, Crew SC play very directly and move from goalkeeper Zack Steffen in his own penalty box to Meram bringing back his “meathook” for a goal on the other end in less than 30 seconds.
Meram’s meathook begins with Steffen picking up a long ball sent to Bradley Wright-Phillips. Steffen grabs this dangerous pass as Harrison Afful moves into position to provide an outlet to his goalkeeper.
Steffen prepares to start the transition play and has thre immediate options: a quick pass to Jonathan Mensah, a similar pass to Afful or a long ball down to the offense.
Steffen plays a short ball to Afful, who has time to turn up the field to survey his options.
With the ball at his feet and ample time, Afful can carry the ball downfield, pass back to Steffen or play a square pass to Jonathan.
However, the TV feed cuts to a highlight of Steffen ending Wright-Phillips’ breakaway before Afful is able to make a pass. Somehow, the ball moves from Afful to Federico Higuain (and eventually to Meram) while the replay is being shown.
After reviewing the chalkboard on MLSSoccer.com, my assumption is that Afful makes a long, cross-field pass to Higuain (or someone who quickly plays the ball to Higuain).
The chalkboard shows Afful as having completed a long pass (the diagonal pass that crosses the midfield circle) at 53:16. Afful received the ball at 53:15, so he must have made this cross-field pass right as the feed went to the highlight.
Higuain’s pass to Meram comes at 53:21, so those five seconds are currently unaccounted for.
After Afful played a cross-field pass to Higuain, the Columbus No. 10 can either slide the ball into the space that Meram is running into, carry the ball forward, play the ball into space for Pedro Santos, or make a diagonal pass to Ola Kamara.
As you can see from the red line, all of the Black & Gold attackers are currently held onside by center-back Aaron Long.
Higuain decides to play the ball out in front of Meram, and the Crew SC winger is immediately in a footrace with Fidel Escobar. Again, Long holds Meram onside.
Meram, using his deceptive speed, outpaces Escobar and has multiple options as he heads toward the goal. He can continue to dribble forward, finding a better angle for a shot, play a square pass to Santos or slide a diagonal ball into the path of Kamara.
Meram decides to carry the ball forward as Escobar gives chase. Kamara continues his run to provide a diagonal option to Meram, but the inverted winger seems set on carrying the ball into the box.
Meram slows down play once he reaches the goal box, giving his attacking partners and the Red Bull defense time to catch up.
Escobar, likely aware that Meram is a right-footed player who is fond of cutting in from the left side, shields Meram’s right angle.
Kamara continued his run and is near the back post unmarked.
As Higuain and Santos stand near the top of the box, potentially waiting for a pass to run onto, Meram readies his meathook maneuver. He hesitates and briefly feints on the ball and Escobar overreacts, stabbing at the winger.
In the above video, you can see how Meram uses a subtle feint and delay to goad Escobar into stabbing at the ball. Once Escobar is thrown off balance, Meram has a chance to take his shot.
Meram takes advantage of Escobar’s stab and readies his meathook shot. He does not throw away the opportunity.
As an outstretched Escobar attempts to block the shot, Meram’s meathook rockets toward the back post . . .
. . . and gives Columbus the 2-1 lead.
- Once again, the Berhalter system works well, but this time it’s an evolved form of the system. In previous years, the Black & Gold might have methodically passed the ball down the field with short passes back and forth. Here, multiple long passes move the team from end to end in less than 30 seconds.
- Afful’s pass wasn’t included in the broadcast or highlights, but must have been good!
- Higuain makes a perfect pass that Meram is able to easily run onto.
- The return of the meathook! It seems like months since Meram has been able to fire his trust hooking shot into the back of the net, and this one helped secure a vital three points for Crew SC.