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Anatomy of a Goal: Milton Valenzuela opens his account

This week we look at Milton Valenzuela’s first goal for the Black & Gold.

MLS: D.C. United at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-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.

After last week’s scoreless draw, we’re back for Match 4 of the 2018 MLS Season. This week, we look at Milton Valenzuela’s first goal for Crew SC, that put Columbus up 1-0 as part of the 3-1 win over D.C. United on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish from the Black & Gold’s left back.

Crew SC began the match with one of the more bleak 10 minutes stretches that we’ve seen from a Gegg Berhalter-led team. The next 10 minute stretch was much better however, with Columbus settling into the game and dictating much of the play, including earning multiple corner kicks.

The Black & Gold’s opening goal begins with a throw-in by Harrison Afful, who has four options. He can either toss the ball down the line to Pedro Santos, make a shorter throw to Cristian Martinez, play a similar pass to Artur or knock a deep outlet to Ricardo Clark.

Afful tosses the ball to Martinez, who quickly plays it back to the right back.

Now that Afful has the ball at his feet, with some room to maneuver, the build up for this goal begins. Afful has space to sit on the ball, but nowhere to move but backward. If he decides to pass the ball, Afful has 3 options: a lob over to Artur, who has begun a run toward the D.C. end line, a short pass right back to Martinez; or a drop ball to Clark.

Afful chooses the more difficult pass, and attempts a lob over Joseph Mora into the path of Artur.

The lob isn’t high enough, and hits Mora right in the chest, surprising the United left back.

Not anticipating a pass right to his midsection, Mora redirects the ball toward his own penalty area. Artur is able to turn and see that he now has a chance to get to the ball before Mora can.

Artur just beats Mora to the ball, but now has his back to the United goal. Heading away from the goal, Artur can pass to Martinez who has begun to make a run up the right flank, play a ball into the path of Valenzuela, who saw an opportunity to make a run into the D.C. penalty box and is unmarked or a touch pass to Gyasi Zardes. Federico Higuain is in position to receive a pass backward, but his angle is cut off by Ian Harkes.

As Martinez continues his run up the right flank, he creates a difficult angle from which Artur would have to make a pass to him. However, the run has drawn the attention of Mora who is now forced to decide whether to go with Martinez or to stay with Artur, giving Crew SC’s Brazilian midfielder time to decide what to do with the ball.

On the bottom right of the image, Valenzuela continues his run into the box.

With a yard of free space created by Martinez’s run, Artur plays a perfectly weighted back-heel pass right into the path of his winger.

Above is a video of Artur’s expert back heel. In the video, you can see that as Mora backs off Artur, he frees up enough space for the Columbus midfielder to play a pass to Martinez.

As Martinez receives Artur’s pass, done with some no-look flair, Valenzuela pushes closer toward the goal box. Mora has done well to shift onto Martinez and prevent the winger from heading toward the center of the penalty area.

In possession, Martinez continues up the right side of the goal box. Valenzuela is still unmarked and still heading toward the goal. Mora seems to be cutting off Martinez’s angle to the middle of the box.

Somehow, Martinez is able to put a pass back into the center of the box and into the path of Valenzuela. Mora seemed to have cut off the best angle to the center of the area, but Martinez shifts his weight enough to make a pass back into the middle of the box.

As Martinez’s pass heads toward the penalty spot, Valenzuela and Nick DeLeon begin a footrace to the ball.

The above video shows the result of Martinez’s pass and Valenzuela’s subsequent finish. DeLeon attempts to slide in front of the ball but is a split second too late.

Valenzuela receives Martinez’s pass and is undoubtedly surprised to have an open look at the goal. His first touch is a little to heavy, as he looks to set up his preferred left foot.

As Valenzuela prepares his shot, United center back Frederic Brillant leaves Zardes in an attempt to block the impending shot on goal.

Valenzuela’s final step is a bit large as Brillant bears down.

With Brillant only a few feet away, Valenzuela gets a shot off but slips in the process.

Luckily, the ball goes right under Brillant. . .

. . . and into the back of the net!


  1. Columbus had quite a few bits of luck in this goal, from Mora awkwardly receiving a lob into the path of Artur, to DeLeon just missing the sliding interception and finally Brillant just missing Valenzuela’s shot. Still, a goal is a goal.
  2. Artur’s back heel was perfectly timed and perfectly weighted. It’s fun to see a bit of flair from the midfielder.
  3. Martinez’s cross to Valenzuela was a combination of luck and a perfect hit. Somehow, the winger was able to turn his body and fire the ball back into the box.
  4. Valenzuela seemed surprised to receive the ball with an open look at the goal, but he made the most of his chance and buried his first goal for the Black & Gold (and the team’s first left-footed finish of the season).