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Anatomy of a Goal: Higuain heads home his second

We take a look at Pipa‘s extra time goal from Crew SC’s playoff game against DC United.

MLS: Knockout Round-Columbus Crew SC at D.C. United Geoff Burke-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 the first match of the 2018 MLS Playoffs, we take a look at Federico Higuain’s 96th minute header against D.C. United that gave Crew SC a 2-1 lead during extra time of the team’s Knockout Round penalty shootout win.

Here’s a look at the goal from Columbus’s maestro.

Wow. Steffen’s first half blunder aside, the Black & Gold were finally able to put together their best game in months against arguably the hottest team in the league. The midfield due of Wil Trapp and Artur did an excellent job of limiting the effectiveness of Wayne Rooney and Luciano Acosta and the offense created chances though they were ultimately unable to finish.

This goal begins in extra time with Artur picking the ball up at midfield. Crew SC’s Brazilian midfielder has time to carry the ball across midfield as D.C. drops into a defensive posture.

Artur approaches the top of the midfield circle and has six options. He can either play a quick pass to Harrison Afful on the wing, pass a through pass to Niko Hansen, continue carrying the ball forward until a United defender commits, play a quick pass to Higuain, knock a long pass to Gyasi Zardes or play a diagonal pass to a moving Pedro Santos.

Artur quickly plays the ball forward to Higuain. Columbus’s No. 10 will is pressured by Russell Canouse and will have to decide whether to turn the ball toward the D.C. goal or to slide a quick square pass to Afful.

Higuain gets just enough of a touch on the ball to redirect the pass toward Afful. Then, Higuain immediately turns and heads toward the goal.

Afful has yards of space ahead and carries the ball forward. Both Zardes and Higuain head toward the goal. Zardes will run right between Frederic Brillant and Steve Birnbaum while Higuain heads toward the space vacated by Zardes’ run.

Afful continues forward and must now decide what to do with the ball. He can either hit a cross into the box toward Zardes and Higuain, continue to carry the ball forward or play a quick pass up the line to Niko Hansen. Zardes takes a hard fake step to the inside and then cuts right between Brillant and Birnbaum.

Afful decides to cross the ball into the penalty box, into the path of Zardes and Higuain.

The above image shows the positioning of Higuain and Bill Hamid as Afful’s cross enters the penalty box. Hamid is positioned toward the near post. From this angle, he should be able to cut off a near post headers by Higuain or Zardes. The only good option for a header will be a really difficult flick to the back post.

Hamid slides a few steps toward the near post as Higuain lines up a headed chance.

Somehow, Higuain is able to glance the ball off the side and back of his head to send it toward the back post.

From the view behind the goal you can clearly see that Hamid has the near post covered. Luckily, Higuain’s header is not heading toward the near post.

Hamid picks up the shot and immediately dives toward his back post.

The ball hits just on the back side of the middle of the goal. . .

. . . bounces right above Hamid’s outstretched arm . . .

. . . and into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. Zardes’ run occupies the D.C. center backs and creates empty space for Higuain to run into.
  2. It’s not clear whether Hamid could have done more to save this goal. The header comes from a seemingly impossible angle and takes a really lucky bounce right in front of the United keeper. There was probably time to take one more step to the right before diving but that’s much easier to say in retrospect.
  3. There isn’t enough that can be said about Higuain. The diminutive attacker was all over the pitch for Crew SC and played all 120 minutes. Masterful performance.