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Anatomy of a Goal: Burke seals the win...but it’s called back

This week we look at Cory Burke’s 36th minute goal that was called back for a foul.

MLS: Philadelphia Union at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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 2018 MLS Season, we take a look at Cory Burke’s 36th minute goal that put the Philadelphia Union up 1-0 as part of their 1-0 over Crew SC on Saturday was called back after a video review determined that Burke fouled Lalas Abubakar from Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Crew SC at Mapfre Stadium.

Here’s a look at the full play including the goal and the video review.

Saturday’s first half went about as expected. Columbus played their typical brand of possession-oriented soccer but was ultimately unable to put together any meaningful chances. Philadelphia employed an effective midfield high press, were very physical and played very directly.

This play begins with Haris Mendunjanin picking the ball up deep on the Union side of the field. Mendunjanin looks to quickly switch fields by playing a long, direct pass to Burke.

The ball drops toward Burke and Abubakar as the pair scrambles for position.

From this angle, you can see Burke put his hand up near Abubakar’s upper chest or neck area.

This contact sends the young center back down onto the turf as Jonathan Mensah heads back toward the goal.

Burke’s first touch puts him at a tough angle, but he is undefended until he either passes or takes a shot.

The Philly striker makes his angle worse and hits some sort of shot/pass back into the area of Jonathan.

Jonathan has time to collect this pass but does not realize it. Fafa Picault sprints toward the ball but would not reach it before Jonathan or even Harrison Afful just to the left of this image.

From the opposite angle you can see how much time Jonathan would have had. Instead of turning on the ball or shielding it across the goal, both of which would normally be dangerous plays but could have been effective here, Jonathan clumsily attempts to control the ball or clear it out of bounds with his left foot.

His touch is too heavy sending the ball right toward the Black & Gold’s goal . . .

. . . and into the back of the net.

But wait! Referee Drew Fischer checks his earpiece and heads to the review booth to take a look at the lead up to this play. Remember, for VAR to be used, the referee’s error must be clear and obvious. Let’s take a look at the highlight above before we try to determine whether this goal should have counted.

From this closer shot, you can see Burke and Abubakar both using their arms to gain position. Both players have extended their arms to the chest and shoulder area of the opposing player.

As the ball falls, Burke turns to look at the ball. When he does this, his hand moves up toward Abubakar’s neck. Abubakar keeps his right forearm on Burke’s left shoulder.

The battle for position continues and Burke’s hand does not move down from Abubakar’s neck. Notice Burke’s slightly bent elbow.

As the ball finally falls, Burke extends his elbow to clear out his position. In doing this, he clearly pushes Abubakar right in the upper chest and neck area, setting the center back off balance and sending him tumbling to the turf. Both players were clearly fighting for position, but Burke’s unintentional shove into Abubakar’s neck is clearly a foul.

Abubakar’s arms show that he’s lost his balance as he falls backward. MLS has very little tolerance for contact to the head and neck area. Philadelphia fans can be frustrated with this decision, but Burke clearly pushed Abubakar . . .

. . . and referee Drew Fischer agreed. No goal!


  1. The Union attempted to play very directly here. Mendunjanin’s long pass to Burke was both accurate and helped by Burke’s push on Abubakar.
  2. Philadelphia supporters can argue that Burke’s push did not necessitate Abubakar’s tumble, but the striker clearly extended his arm at the center back’s neck. That’s a foul.
  3. Jonathan has had an excellent season but this was not his best moment. Luckily he was bailed out by Fischer’s correct call to overturn this goal.