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Anatomy of a Goal: Raheem Edwards’s equalizer

This week we look at Edwards’s volley.

MLS: Montreal Impact at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to the Anatomy of a Goal, where each week we dissect one goal from the previous week’s Columbus Crew SC match.

For Match 2 of the 2018 MLS season, we take a look at Raheem Edwards‘ 85th minute volley that tied Saturday’s match at 2-2 for the Montreal Impact as part of Crew SC’s 3-2 win.

Here’s a look at the finish from the Montreal Impact winger.

Saturday’s match was a tale of two halves, with Columbus handling Montreal for much of the first half, and the Impact applying the pressure in the second 45 minutes. The Impact pulled back a goal on Ignacio Piatti’s excellently placed strike earlier in the second half, and peppered the Black & Gold’s goal with 13 shots during this period.

Montreal’s second goal begins with a Zack Steffen long kick down the field. Impact left back Daniel Lovitz easily beats Gyasi Zardes to the ball, heading the ball to the Impact midfield.

Saphir Taider picks up the ball at midfield but is quickly boxed in by Artur and Federico Higuain. Feeling this pressure, Taider heads backward and drops the ball to Samuel Piette.

Montreal officially lined up in a 4-1-4-1 for this match, with Piette listed as the defensive midfielder, but in the attack, and while down a goal, this formation looked much more like a 4-3-3, with Piette playing as a defensive center mid while Ken Krolicki and Taider manning the rest of the center midfield. Piatti and Edwards played to the left and right of Matteo Mancosu, pushing high up the field.

Once Piette receives the ball he has more than 10 yards of space available ahead of him, but instead of moving into that space, decides to switch the field by playing a quick pass to right back Michael Petrasso. Rooking winger Luis Argudo heads out to put pressure on Petrasso.

The Impact clearly looked to exploit the wings on this goal, twice switching the side of attack and avoiding carrying the ball up the middle of the field.

With the ball, and space ahead of him, Petrasso keeps with the Montreal proclivity to play quick passes, sending the ball up to Edwards who pulls Crew SC left back Milton Valenzuela with him.

Boxed in by Valenzuela and Argudo, Edwards quickly drops the ball back to Petrasso. Note Krolicki, a central midfielder, pushing up the wing to fill in the space that Edwards has just vacated rather than dropping into the vacant central space. Again, the Impact are looking to attack right up the Columbus wings.

Petrasso turns toward the center of the field and can carry the ball forward toward Argudo, send a pass back to Piette, play a quick switch to former Crew SC player Jukka Raitala or a drop pass to center back Victor Cabrera. Petrasso opts for the quick drop to Cabrera.

Cabrera, himself with four options, quickly turns and plays a pass Raitala. Despite having available space ahead of him, including a pass to an open player, Cabrera continues the switching of fields.

Raitala, not yet pressured by Zardes, carries the ball forward before playing a pass across midfield to Taider.

Both Taider and Lovitz have pushed up the left wing by this point.

Taider receives Raitala’s pass with significant room in which to work. The midfielder turns up field and carries the ball up the left side toward the Columbus goal.

When Taider is met with pressure from Artur, he must chose which of three options to take: a dangerous through ball to Mancosu, a quick pass to Piatti, who is being bodied by Jonathan Mensah or a pass up the left wing to Lovitz.

From Harrison Afful’s positioning, it’s clear that the Black & Gold are trying to force the ball to the wings. Afful has slightly opened his body to toward the wing, looking to force Taider to that side should the right back be forced to mark him.

With two tall center backs, this tactic makes sense, but only if the interior marking is tight and the far side defensive players don’t lose their marks.

Still looking to exploit the wings, Taider plays a pass to Lovitz.

The above video shows the quick move that Lovitz uses to get enough space beat Afful with a cross. Afful does a good job of keeping the attacker on his outside, but just misses getting a foot on the ball.

As Lovitz goes to make his move on Afful, Piatti looks to run in behind Jonathan.

Once Lovitz has just enough space to continue downfield, the rest of Montreal’s attack makes their runs toward the goal. Piatti continues his run behind Jonathan, Mancosu heads right between Alex Crognale and Lalas Abubakar, and Edwards runs to the back of Valenzuela. At this moment, Valenzuela ostensibly has Edwards covered. However, the diminutive defender begins to drift toward the center, either caught watching the ball or attempting to provide a third defender on Mancosu.

As Lovitz continues toward the end line, you can see Valenzuela continue to drift away from Edwards as the Impact winger enters the box.

With just an inch of space, Lovitz hits his cross into the box and into the path of Edwards. Valenzuela has drifted a few more feet away from his mark.

Lovitz’s cross was expertly hit by Edwards, but realistically was not a great cross. Edwards here is in the process of taking a few steps back to get onto the ball. Typically, taking steps back before striking a volley would not result in such a beautiful strike, but somehow the stars aligned for Montreal.

Having quickly backed up onto the ball, Edwards is able to get a solid strike on the cross . . .

. . . sending the ball into the back of the net.

Findings:

  1. Montreal clearly intended to exploit the wings on this goal. It’s unclear whether this was a Crew SC specific tactic, or even whether Columbus forced the Impact onto the wings, or a plan that the Impact intended to use all match, but the points of attack are very intentional.
  2. Valenzuela totally loses his mark of Edwards. Merely being near the Impact winger would have prevented a clean strike on the volley
  3. Edwards hits a once-in-a-lifetime strike while slightly moving backwards. Impressive.