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Anatomy of a Goal: Grella’s game-winner

This week we look at Mike Grella’s first goal for Crew SC.

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 nine of the 2018 MLS Season, we take a look at Crew SC winger Mike Grella’s 84th minute near-post finish that gave Columbus a 2-1 win over the visiting San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the first goal for the Black & Gold from Grella.

Crew SC’s ninth match of the season seemed like it would play out a lot like the previous four matches. Columbus dominated possession and created multiple chances, but was ultimately unable to score the go-ahead goal. Niko Hansen was largely ineffective during his time on the pitch and was subbed out for Grella in the 65th minute.

The Black & Gold’s game winner begins after a sloppy few minutes of play by both teams. A few turnovers around the half-life lead to San Jose midfielder Jackson Yueill attacking up the right side. Yueill has an open, though incredibly difficult, pass to Quincy Amarikwa at the top of the penalty box.

Crew SC has a solid defensive setup here, which ultimately leads to an easy turnover and quick transition. Yueill runs into the tight marking of Milton Valenzuela and Wil Trapp, attempting to force a pass to the right wing. Ricardo Clark marks the trailing runner and cuts off part of Yueill’s angle to Amarikwa. Columbus center back Jonathan Mensah has a lead on Amarikwa and can step in to contest any square passes.

Yueill puts his head down and hits a pass into the general vicinity of Amarikwa. However, the pass is not particularly accurate and is easily picked off by Jonathan.

As Jonathan approaches Yueill’s ill-placed pass, he notices that Ricardo Clark is unmarked and quickly plays a one-touch pass to the midfielder.

By this point, Columbus winger Pedro Santos dropped into a central position, and is prepared to receive a pass to set off the counter.

As Clark receives Jonathan’s quick pass, he is quickly pressured by Danny Hoesen. Santos turns his head and sees that he has more than 15 yards of free space ahead of him.

Feeling Hoesen’s pressure, Clark takes a settling touch and then quickly passes the ball to a wide open Santos. Two quick passes by central players have set the Black & Gold off on the counter attack.

Because Santos knows that he has more than a dozen yards of space, he is able to take a heavy touch to turn the ball up the field. Goal-scorer Mike Grella runs parallel to Santos, aiding in the counter.

Hoesen turns back up the field and applies pressure to Santos, forcing the winger to angle his dribble slightly toward the sideline. Grella continues forward on the opposite side.

Hoesen gets just ahead of Santos and attempts a slide tackle. From this angle, it looks like Hoesen is coming in from the side and should be able to avoid a foul call if he’s able to knock the ball away.

Santos has other ideas and continues to angle his run just out of reach of Hoesen’s slide. The attempted tackle barely slows Santos who is able to quickly get back up to pace.

Having beaten Hoesen, Santos once again has a swath of free space ahead of him. Forward Adam Jahn cuts his run in front of Florian Jungwirth, in hopes of pulling the left back centrally to open up more space for Santos, but Jungwirth leaves Jahn to center back Francois Affolter. Both Federico Higuain and Grella continue their runs, spacing out the San Jose defense.

Switching angles, we get another look at Crew SC’s positioning as Santos heads forward. Quakes winger Magnus Erikkson runs with Grella, forcing the debut midfielder to run at full pace.

Santos surveys the field as he sees Jungwirth commit his defensive efforts, likely seeing Grella just ahead of Erikkson. The Earthquakes’ second center back, Harold Cummings, looks toward Jahn and Santos, not recognizing Grella’s run behind him.

Santos slows his run as he is pressured by Jungwirth and the hard-working Hoesen. The Columbus winger now has four options. He can either play a quick pass to Higuain, a long lob to Grella, a through ball to Jahn who has cut back toward the sideline or attempt to beat Jungwirth on the dribble.

Santos’s long pass to Grella is worth looking at in motion before we break down the individual points of interest. Notice the fortunate bounce right in front of Erikkson’s slide.

Having recognized Grella’s run, Santos decides to hit a lofted ball into the path of his teammate. Erikkson cuts toward the middle of the box to try and get in front of Santos’ pass.

From the above still, it looks like Erikkson made the correct decision to cut his run inside. The San Jose winger begins his slide as the ball falls short of Grella, who continues to run toward the goal. On the opposite side of the goal box Jahn continues his back post run.

Santos’ pass takes a lucky bounce right in front of Erikkson, and over the sliding winger toward Grella.

Grella now receives the ball with little direct pressure. He takes a quick touch to settle the ball and switch it to his right foot.

In possession of the ball, Grella is marked by Erikkson and Cummings. Jahn has posted up on the back post and is unmarked. Affolter may be able to intercept a pass to Jahn, but would have to react quickly.

With the ball on his right foot and defensive pressure bearing down, Grella can either take a shot on goal or attempt a pass to Jahn.

Playing in his first MLS match since June 3, 2017, Grella fires a shot toward the near post. You can see Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell recognize Jahn open on the back post and cheat toward the Black & Gold’s striker.

Above, you can clearly see that Tarbell guess incorrectly on Grella’s shot. The former Clemson Tiger expects Grella to make a pass to Jahn or take a shot at the far post, and as he leans away from the ball has no other option to watch the ball as it rolls by him...

...and into the back of the net!


  1. Jonathan and Clark both displayed impressive, quick decision making in initiating this game-winning counter attack.
  2. Santos does well to stay on his feet after Hoesen’s tackle attempt at midfield.
  3. On first viewing, Santos’ pass to Grella looks great, but there was a bit of luck involved. Had Erikkson not slid too early or cut a foot or two further inside he would have easily intercepted this pass.
  4. Jahn’s run to the back post both put himself in position to receive an open look at goal and seemed to have distracted Tarbell, opening up the near post for Grella’s shot.
  5. Grella’s low and hard shot was right on the money and difficult for any goalkeeper to react to.