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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes ties his career high

This week, we look at Gyasi Zardes’s 16th goal for Crew SC.

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

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

For match 30 of the 2018 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’s 17th minute goal that put Crew SC up 1-0 as part of their 2-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.

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

The Black & Gold entered this match in desperate need of a win to keep ahead of the Philadelphia Union for fourth and on pace with New York City FC for the third spot in the Eastern Conference. With one point from a West Coast trip, a win against Colorado brought a successful end to a three-match week.

Zardes’ 16th goal of the year, tying his career high, starts with Crew SC picking up the ball in the midfield. Pedro Santos plays a quick, looping pass to Justin Meram as Milton Valenzuela heads up the left flank.

Meram receives the pass and, expecting defensive pressure but finding none there, has time to turn and survey his options. Valenzuela continues his run while Federico Higuain cuts toward the middle of the field.

Meram finds the unmarked Higuain while Valenzuela continues toward the Colorado defense.

Higuain receives the ball, totally unmarked, and has four options: a quick pass out to Valenzuela, to carry the ball toward the Colorado center backs, a through pass to Zardes or a pass back to Santos.

Higuain decides to fire a quick pass left to Valenzuela.

Valenzuela has space before he reaches Marlon Hairston, giving time for Meram to drop into position for a pass and the rest of the Columbus attack to move forward.

As Hairston closes down on Valenzuela, the Black & Gold’s left back has three options. He can try to beat Hairston off the dribble, play a cross into the penalty box toward Zardes, Santos or Higuain or play a drop pass to Meram.

Valenzuela, keeping the defense shifting and plays the safe pass back to Meram.

Meram picks up the ball with his offense retreating away from the goal and Johan Bloomberg dropping back in defense. Zardes and Santos must both come back to avoid being offside while Higuain drops to provide an outlet.

Bloomberg bears down on Meram leaving the winger to either play a pass back out to Valenzuela, try to beat Bloomberg off the dribble or knock a quick pass to Higuain.

Meram opts for the easiest pass to Higuain. Note Hairston, highlighted on the left side of the image. As Higuain plays his next pass, Hairston establishes the offside line determining whether Zardes is on or off as he scores the game’s first goal.

Higuain, sensing pressure from multiple defenders, prepares to play a first-touch pass over the Rapids defensive line. Zardes has retreated to within inches of the 18-yard line while Hairston and Santos are both closer to the Colorado goal.

Higuain quickly flicks the ball over the defensive line while Zardes runs into the ball’s path.

Let’s take a closer look at the previous image, but with multiple points highlighted to determined whether Zardes was offside.

Above, the ball has just left Higuain’s foot. Zardes is the focal point of the zoom in the center of the image, though obscured by a Colorado defender. You can barely make out Zardes’ feet, but he is clearly standing within 12 inches of the 18-yard line. Hairston, on the left, seems to be at least two, if not three, feet from the line, clearly holding Zardes onside.

Santos may be offside, but the winger does not make contact with the ball.

On the far right you can see the assistant referee set up in a perfect position to determine whether or not Zardes is offside. He got this call right.

Onside, Zardes heads toward Higuain’s flick. Zardes’ first touch on this play will be his shot.

The ball takes a bounce in front of Zardes and the striker continues to follow its trajectory. Rapids goalkeeper, Tim Howard, heads toward Zardes in hopes of preventing a goal.

Zardes lets the ball bounce in front of him rather than take a touch that would slow the ball’s momentum. Hairston conspicuously raises his hand in a plea for an offside call.

Howard see Zardes tee up a left-footed shot and attempts to cut off his right side (the image’s left). Zardes has to use his weaker foot to put a shot past the former U.S. National Team goalkeeper.

With his off-foot, Zardes catches Howard and hits a shot toward his right and Howard’s left...

..into the back of the net!

FINDINGS:

  1. Crew SC played very directly in this sequence. Rather than dribble or play back passes, almost every pass brought the team closer to the goal.
  2. Higuain’s deft flick is yet another reason why Columbus’ creative engine is so valuable.
  3. The assistant referee did an excellent job ruling Zardes onside. As with all goals, this one was reviewed by the VAR and it was determined that the head referee did not need to go to the monitor.
  4. Zardes’ patience and shot, with his off foot, were excellent. With this goal, Zardes tied his season high and should set a new personal record before the year ends.