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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes’ perfectly placed finish

This week we look at Gyasi Zardes’s long-range effort that briefly put Crew SC up 2-1 against the New England Revolution.

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 8 of the 2018 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes ’ 43rd minute curler that put Crew SC up 2-1 as part of the 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish by the Crew SC striker.

Unlike the previous two weeks, Columbus managed to actually finish one of the team’s multiple chances in the first half. But again, the Black & Gold gave up one of the first shots on goal the team faced.

Zardes’ goal, that briefly put Crew SC up by one, begins with a New England goal kick that was flicked up into the air by Jonathan Mensah. As the awkwardly headed ball drops near Harrison Afful, the right back executes a quick clearance rather than settling to the ball to begin play out of the back.

Afful’s clearance is picked up by Revolution defensive midfielder Wilfried Zahibo, who attempts a quick pass to Cristian Penilla. Afful, seeing where Zahibo’s pass is headed, quickly moves forward in an attempt to beat Penilla to the ball.

Zahibo’s pass doesn’t reach Penilla and is easily picked off by Afful, who carries the ball slightly forward as Wil Trapp drops back to cover.

Once Afful meets a line of New England defenders, he quickly drops the ball back to Trapp. The Columbus captain picks up the ball and is quickly pressured by the Revolution. Luckily he has Jonathan waiting for a drop ball.

When the Revolution’s high defensive block arrives, Trapp quickly plays the ball back to Jonathan. After making this pass, Trapp moves into his typical spot between the Black & Gold center backs.

New England’s defensive block elects not to press higher up the field. With this space available, Jonathan has three options. He can carry the ball forward, play a quick pass between Juan Agudelo and Diego Fagundez to Artur or a simple pass over to Trapp. Jonathan makes the simplest pass and taps the ball over to Trapp.

With the Revolution holding their line, Trapp plays a square pass over to Josh Williams, who has more than 10 yards of free space ahead of him.

Williams carries the ball a few yards forward, sees Pedro Santos just across midfield, and quickly plays a pass up to the winger.

Williams saw Santos flash open, but the winger was closely marked by two New England defenders. However, Santos executes a quick turn to get out of this tight marking situation. Take a look at the video of Santos’ move above before we break down the play.

Santos is heading back toward midfield as Williams plays the entry pass. Zahibo and Bunbury both converge on the winger as he looks to shift the ball up the field.

When Santos receives the pass, he quickly shifts the ball and his momentum up the field, using the momentum of the Revolution defenders to create space to dribble.

Santos takes a quick touch toward the sideline and then immediately turns the ball toward the New England goal. Bunbury has to quickly shift his momentum to keep pace with Santos.

Meanwhile, Federico Higuain sees Santos shift into an attacking dribble and begins a run down the center of the pitch.

Bunbury was able to turn but has to fully shift in order to try to get in front of Santos, who is on his way downfield. Higuain continues to move toward the Revolution goal.

With just a small bit of space to work, Santos can either play a through pass to Zardes, continue carrying the ball forward with Bunbury on his right hip or play a quick pass to an open Higuain.

Santos plays the pass up to Higuain who is marked by center back Claude Dielna. Dielna’s partner, Jalil Anibaba, shifts away from Zardes and into Higuain’s path, allowing the Crew SC striker to shift his run more toward the center of the field.

A half touch later, Higuain must quickly decide toe either play a through pass to Zardes who only has Anibaba between him and the goal, attempt to beat Dielna, and then Anibaba, off the dribble or a difficult pass to Niko Hansen who is also running toward the goal.

Seeing Anibaba head to cut off his path forward, and away from Zardes, Higuain plays a quick pass right across Anibaba to his striker. At the time of this pass, Zardes is clearly onside, and is about two feet behind Anibaba.

Anibaba now has to turn to chase the ball as Zardes’ run cuts closer to the ball and the center of the goal. Hansen continues his run but now must be conscious of remaining onside.

Zardes beats Anibaba to the ball and uses a clever first touch to create enough space for his shot on goal. As the ball approaches Zardes, he uses the outside of his right foot to send the ball behind the defender and setting up a shot on his preferred right foot. Anibaba’s momentum toward the goal slows down his turn toward Zardes allowing the striker to get off a clean shot.

Hansen continues his run but must slow down a bit to stay onside.

The above shot shows Zardes just before he touches the ball behind Anibaba. In order to recover from this turn, Anibaba would have to do a full turn back toward Zardes while also moving at speed.

Here, Zardes has sent the ball to his right and behind Anibaba, who is still facing the goal. Hansen has had to slow his run to stay onside.

Above you can see how much space Zardes was able to create with his clever first touch. Now he quickly has to decide what to do with the ball. Hansen has just stopped his run, staying onside, but is available for a through ball in on goal. Zardes also has an open but difficult shot on goal.

Above is a video of Zardes’ shot. By hammering a low, curling shot at the back post, he puts the New England goalkeeper in an almost impossible position to make a save.

Zardes decides to shoot on goal, and hammers a Meram-esque hooking shot that stays on the turf.

The shot is placed on the ground and toward the back post. By shooting low, goalkeeper Matt Turner has to both move to his left and dive down in order to stop this shot.

Turner’s dive is just short, sending Zardes’s shot . . .

. . . into the back of the net.


  1. Crew SC have a few key “hustle” plays here, with Afful quickly stepping in to pick off Zahibo’s pass and Santos’ clever turn around two New England defenders.
  2. Higuain’s ability to settle Santos’ pass and then play a perfectly weighted ball to Zardes is excellent as always.
  3. Zardes used his first touch to create space and then hit an excellent shot into the only place that it could have beaten the Revolution goalkeeper. Excellent work for his fifth goal on the season.