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Anatomy of a Goal: Mullins makes his mark

This week we look at Patrick Mullins’s first goal for the Black & Gold.

MLS: Columbus Crew at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-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.

For match 23 of the 2018 MLS Season, we take a look at Patrick Mullins’ 24th minute goal that put Crew SC up 2-0 as part of the team’s 3-2 win at the New York Red Bulls on Saturday.

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

The Black & Gold took an early lead in this match off a Jonathan Mensah goal, assisted by a Mullins header. The Red Bulls seemed shocked by Crew SC’s goal, but maintained the team’s typical high-pressing style.

Columbus’ second goal on the night begins with the ball in Zack Steffen’s hands. The goalkeeper dropped the ball to his feet and played a quick pass up to Artur in the midfield.

The above image provides a good look at the Black & Gold’s attacking strategy in the first half of this match. With both Gyasi Zardes and Mullins in the lineup, Crew SC had two strikers on the field. In possession, Wil Trapp dropped back between the two center backs, as he usually does, but Harrison Afful tucked inside to aide in the central midfield. Afful, playing alongside Artur, allowed Zardes and Mullins to both play as attacking strikers. Milton Valenzuela and Niko Hansen provided attacking width, allowing Pedro Santos to roam the midfield.

Artur turns up the field and quickly plays a pass on the ground to Santos.

Santos takes a poor first touch and the ball is intercepted by Sean Davis.

Davis turns up the field while being defended by Santos. The New York midfielder hits a pass in the direction of teammate Tyler Adams.

However, Davis is not able to get off a clean pass and instead plays the ball much closer to Artur.

Artur is able to beat Adams to the ball but slips as he attempts to play a pass toward the sideline. Meanwhile, Josh Williams and Valenzuela both head toward the ball, making themselves available for a pass.

Artur recovers from his stumble and plays a quick pass back to Williams, resetting the offense.

When Williams receives the ball he is imediately pressed by Adams and Marc Rzatkowski. The Red Bulls defenders eliminate Williams’ path forward and his passing lanes to either Artur or Santos. With his options limited, Williams must decide whether to play a pass up the sideline to Valenzuela or a more difficult pass up the field to Afful.

Williams passes up the sideline to Valenzuela as Afful makes a move toward the midfield.

Valenzuela is quickly closed down by Davis and Michael Murillo, leaving the left back with three options. He can play a quick pass to Artur, play a square pass to Santos or attempt a chip up the field to Afful.

Valenzuela plays an excellent chip to Afful, who has noticed Mullins defended by the much slower Aurelien Collin.

Afful sizes up the chip as Mullins turns behind Collin. Afful has to play a quick pass before he is defended.

The right back, here playing in a central midfield role, hits a one-time pass down the field into the path of Mullins. The striker runs behind Collin, who has been caught flat-footed and is at a disadvantage in the ensuing footrace.

After the goal is scored, New York goalkeeper Luis Robles had some words with the head referee. It is unclear what upset Robles, but for the sake of this analysis I will pretend that Robles thought Mullins was offside. At the moment the ball was played by Afful, Mullins was clearly held onside by Tim Parker.

As Afful’s pass heads past midfield, Mullins is still clearly onside and has the beginnings of a sizable head start on Collin.

Mullins easily beats Collin down the field while Zardes runs right toward the middle of the Red Bulls goal box.

When Mullins enters the penalty area, he must decide which of three options to take. He can continue to carry the ball forward, fire a quick shot around Robles or make a pass to Zardes. Parker has placed himself between Mullins and Zardes, making a pass to the forward difficult and cutting off Mullins’ angle to the middle of the penalty box.

Mullins carries the ball a few yards forward. Now, his angle on goal is even tougher. Robles is positioned to take away the near post so any shot will have to go to ward the back post, a tough shot from either foot at that angle.

With nowhere left to go forward, Mullins must now decide whether to hit a shot to the back post or to play a quick square pass to Zardes.

Mullins decides to fire a shot on goal. To score, the shot will have to travel between Parker and Robles. From this image, it looks like there is a path just big enough for the ball to travel through.

The low shot just beats Robles, and skips . . .

. . . into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. The sequences of passes from Valenzuela to Afful to Mullins was inch perfect and showed Berhalter’s game plan paying dividends in an important road match.
  2. Zardes’ run down the middle of the field prevents Parker from being able to fully commit to defending Mullins. Without touching the ball, the striker was able to provide value with his movement.
  3. The Mullins signing has already paid dividends, with the striker adding a much needed new dimension to the Crew SC attack. Mullins ability to use pace and fire in a clinical shot on this play is a welcome addition to the Columbus offense.