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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes levels the match with one touch

This week, we look at Gyasi Zardes’s 51st minute goal that tied Saturday’s game at 1-1.

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 22 of the 2018 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’s 51st minute goal that tied the match at one as part of Crew SC’s 3-2 win over Orlando City on Saturday.

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

The black-clad Black & Gold dominated possession and earned numerous corner kicks during the first half but were otherwise unable to score against the Lions. Sacha Kljestan put Orlando ahead in the 16th minute and the Lions resolutely defended everything that Crew SC could throw at them.

The equalizer begins on a quick Columbus free kick. Winger Pedro Santos quickly stands over the ball and surveys his options as Milton Valenzuela heads up the field.

Santos plays a quick square pass to Artur, resetting the play and catching Orlando off-guard.

Artur receives Santos’ pass as the Black & Gold set off for a quick counter attack. Right back Harrison Afful runs down the right flank while winger Niko Hansen cuts toward the sideline ahead of Afful.

Artur has three options. He can play a quick pass up the right flank to Afful, a more difficult through ball to Hansen or carry the ball forward.

Artur plays a perfectly weighted pass in front of Afful who is able to run on the ball and carry toward the midfield line. The Lions’ goalscorer, Kljestan, makes an angled defensive run at Afful, looking to cut off the right back’s path forward.

Kljestan continues to take an angled run toward Afful as he carries the ball toward midfield.

At the top right corner of the image, Zardes makes his attacking run. By quickly playing the earlier free kick, Crew SC has caught Orlando with only the center backs in a position to defend.

Kljestan’s defensive run closes out Afful’s path forward leaving the right back with three options. He can cut the ball back toward his defensive half, make a long pass toward Hansen or attempt to beat Kljestan off the dribble.

Seeing the pacy winger running ahead of him, Afful opts to play a through ball down the line and past Hansen.

Hansen and Orlando left back Tony Rocha are now in a footrace for the ball

As the chase continues, Hansen clearly has a speed advantage on Rocha, who must run parallel to him and hope to cut off the Columbus winger’s angle toward the goal.

Before we dissect Hansen’s quick move to beat Rocha, let’s take a look at a video of Hansen’s touch.

Hansen beats Rocha to the ball but finds himself stuck between Rocha and the end line. Instead of hitting a cross, Hansen attempts to use his speed to get around Rocha.

Notice the position of both players’ hips in the image above. Hansen has gotten to the ball and squared his hips with the goal. Rocha’s hips are still facing the end line.

The above image showed Hansen slowing and turning his hips toward the goal. The winger slowed his pace while squaring his hips and preparing to make his first touch on the ball. As he does this, Rocha is able to catch up but is still facing the end line. With his first touch, Hansen pushes the ball past Rocha, attempting to use Rocha’s momentum toward the end line to his advantage. For the Orlando left back to catch up, he will have to slow down and turn his body toward the goal. By the time he does that, Hansen has already sped past him.

Hansen’s touch pays dividends as he rushes past Rocha and toward the goal.

The Black & Gold winger continues his run into the penalty box until he sees the impending defense of Lions’ center back Chris Schuler. Hansen spots Zardes and plans a quick pass toward him in the penalty box.

Hansen’s pass bounces just past Schuler, who has left Shane O’Neill alone to deal with Zardes.

The ball takes another bounce before landing right at the feet of Zardes.

O’Neill scrambles to get in front of Zardes, who must quickly decide whether to take a first touch shot or to use his first touch to get around O’Neill.

Before we look at still images from his shot, let’s take a look at the shot in motion.

Zardes decides to use his first touch to take a shot on goal. This is a very difficult shot despite how simple Zardes makes the finish look. As the ball rolls toward him, Zardes redirects the ball forward and to the back post.

Zardes’ shot heads toward the back post and Joe Bendik can do nothing but watch the ball and hope it heads out of bounds.

The ball bounces off the back post . . .

. . . and into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. This goal is an excellent example of alert, aware play by Columbus. From Santos to Artur, Afful, Hansen, and Zardes, the Black & Gold dictate the terms of this play, forcing Orlando to react and recover.
  2. Hansen was able to use his speed to beat Rocha in the initial footrace to the ball and on the end line.
  3. Zardes makes a difficult finish look easy. All strikers miss shots like this one, but this finish is one that strikers of past seasons might not have made.