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Anatomy of a Goal: Gyasi Zardes opens his Columbus Crew SC account

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This week, we look at Zardes’ finish of a beautiful sequence by Crew SC.

MLS: Columbus Crew at Toronto FC John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

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

I’m excited to get back to breaking down goals, and hope to have some exciting new wrinkles in store for this season.

For Match 1 of the 2018 MLS season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 46th minute goal that put Crew SC up 2-0 on Toronto FC as part of the win on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish from Columbus’s new striker.

Seeking revenge after the Reds ended the Black & Gold’s 2017 season, Crew SC entered this match with many new faces. Columbus took the lead on a Federico Higuain goal near the end of the first half, limited Toronto’s chances and looked like a real contender in the Eastern Conference.

The Black & Gold kicked off the second half and Toronto didn’t touch the ball until grabbing it from the back of the net. Crew SC’s eight player, 15-pass sequence was capped off by Zardes’ brilliant first-touch finish, his first goal in black and gold.

Zardes’ first goal for Columbus begins with the kickoff of the second half. Higuain plays a pass back to Artur.

Artur then quickly touches the ball over to team captain Wil Trapp.

Trapp, with the option to pass to Harrison Afful on the right wing or Jonathan Mensah, plays a ball up to Afful and then drops back to occupy the space between the center backs.

Afful receives the ball but is quickly boxed in, so he makes a drop pass to Jonathan. At this point Trapp is between Jonathan and Lalas Abubakar.

Instead of carrying the ball up the right flank, Jonathan makes a quick square pass to Trapp. Giovinco is near the midfielder, and the Black & Gold captain has Abubakar and new left back Milton Valenzuela out to his left.

Trapp switches the field, moving the ball over to Valenzuela and sending Giovinco toward the Argentine left back.

When Valenzuela receives the ball, he sees that Giovinco has shifted pressure toward him and away from Trapp, so he quickly sends the ball right back to his captain.

Having received Valenzuela’s pass, and now free from Giovinco’s slight pressure, Trapp carries the ball forward where he is met with four options: a touch pass to Jonathan, a more difficult pass over Jozy Altidore to Afful, carrying the ball forward at Victor Vazquez or sliding the ball to Artur.

As pressure from Vazquez arrives, Trapp slides the ball over to Jonathan.

Altidore begins to put pressure on Jonathan, cutting off the Ghanian’s angle forward. The Crew SC center back can either play a sideline-hugging pass up to Afful or a quick ball into the path of a Vazquez-defended Artur.

Jonathan chooses the sideline pass to Afful, who is immediately pressured by Jonathan Osorio.

Artur quickly moves into position to receive a pass from Afful, and then begins to dribble his way both into and out of pressure.

With Vazquez providing pressure, Artur heads toward his own goal.

Jonathan should move away from Artur to create separation for himself and to either draw away Altidore or have the striker mark Artur thereby opening up himself for a pass, but the center back continues to keep pace with his teammate, clogging Artur’s lane.

Trapp maintains his position and is available for a pass if Artur is able to turn.

Surrounded by Vazquez and Altidore, and just before losing the ball, Artur makes a deft move to chip the ball up and over to Trapp.

Trapp then makes a quick chip over Bradley, right on to the waiting feet of Higuain. Cristian Martinez sees this as an opportune time to begin a run downfield, and heads toward Toronto’s goal, drawing a defender with him.

As Michael Bradley turns and moves toward Higuain, Columbus’ No. 10 plays a quick pass right back to Trapp who now has room to work. Left winger Pedro Santos is unmarked, standing in the middle of the field.

Santos turns his head downfield and is no doubt shocked to find himself with 10 yards of open space ahead of him. Valenzuela sprints downfield, at the bottom of the image, and will either occupy the defensive efforts of Gregory van der Wiel or will be unmarked and able to receive a pass from Trapp or Santos.

Trapp quickly slots the ball to Santos.

Valenzuela’s run takes van der Wiel away from Santos, leaving the winger with open field ahead.

Zardes makes an excellent run into the channel between the Toronto center-backs.

Above is the exact moment when Santos lifts his head to see Zardes running in front of one of the Reds’ center backs. Santos then makes an inch-perfect pass to his striker.

The video above is the best angle of Santos’ brilliant pass to Zardes. This pass beats multiple Toronto defenders and hits Zardes in stride, setting him up for a one-touch finish.

This angle shows exactly where Santos plays his through pass to Zardes. At this point, Zardes has shifted his run behind Chris Mavinga. Santos slots the ball right between Eriq Zavalata and Mavinga, just far enough to beat Mavinga but close enough for Zardes to have a chance at a one-timer.

The side angle shows that Zardes perfectly timed his run to stay onside.

As Santos’ ball slides pass Zavaleta, Zardes has to beat Mavinga to have a chance at a finish.

The above video shows Zardes’ excellent first-touch shot. The Black & Gold’s striker has long been regarded as having a poor first touch, but here it was perfect. Zardes showed a close touch for much of the match. If the Crew SC target man is able to finish as many open looks as Ola Kamara sent wide or into the waiting arms of a goalkeeper in 2017, he’ll have an excellent season in black and gold.

Zardes outpaces Mavinga and fires a first touch shot . . .

. . . and it’s in the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. Eight players combine for 15 passes. This is a team goal.
  2. Aside from Artur’s daring dribble toward his own end line, this goal is mostly the result of simple passes to an open player.
  3. Santos’ awareness on this goal is excellent, his head is always up looking to make a pass or run into space.
  4. Zardes hit an perfect first touch shot that easily beats Alex Bono to the near post.