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Anatomy of a Goal: two corners lead to three Crew SC points

This week we take a look at both goals from Columbus’ 2-1 win against NYCFC.

MLS: New York City FC at Columbus Crew SC Aaron Doster-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 27 of the 2017 MLS season, we take a look at BOTH goals from Crew SC’s 2-1 win over New York City FC on Saturday.

First up, let’s take look at the goal from the Columbus right-back, Harrison Afful.

In what’s become a disturbing trend, the Black & Gold created numerous chances during the beginning of this match but were ultimately unable to capitalize. An NYCFC goal saw Crew SC go down 1-0, placing them in danger of losing valuable home points with fifth place Philadelphia Union breathing down their necks.

Columbus’ first goal starts with a Justin Meram corner kick. The newly returned winger plays a short corner to Pedro Santos and then heads toward the midfield line to get in position to receive a pass back.

Santos quickly plays a pass back to Meram who must quickly decide whether to pass or dribble to avoid the New York defenders.

Meram decides to immediately play the ball back into the penalty box in what looks like a designed short corner play.

However, Meram seemingly over-hits the cross and sends the ball sailing to Federico Higuain on the back corner of the 18-yard box. Afful has placed himself about 15 yards from the top of the penalty box in position to receive a pass.

With two New York City defenders ahead of him, Higuain opts to play a quick square pass to Afful.

Afful has space in front of him and carries the ball a few yards toward the penalty box.

Afful now must choose whether to carry the ball forward, play a pass into the penalty box, or take a shot from nearly 40 yards out.

Of course, Afful decides to take a shot. As of today’s (Sept. 3, 2018) posting, Afful has 50 shots on the year. That’s tied for the most, with Graham Zusi, of any player who is listed as a defender in MLS. For reference, former Black & Gold striker Ola Kamara only has 53 shots on the year. The closest defender to Afful and Zusi is NYCFC’s Anton Tinnerholm with 33 shots.

Unfortunately, Afful’s shot is right into a New York defender.

But, the ball pops back out toward Afful who must beat David Villa to the ball.

Villa cuts off his chase of the ball, which bounces right back to Afful about 30 yards away from the goal. The right back decides to take another shot on goal, sending an outside-the-foot strike sailing toward the goal (and Lalas Abubakar) off the bounce.

Abubakar ducks out of the way of the shot as the ball sails toward the City goal.

Sean Johnson is nearly able to get a hand to the ball, but Afful’s shot is curving toward the post . . .

. . . and into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. Meram’s cross into the penalty box wasn’t perfect (nor was it into the box) but it did find Higuain on the back side.
  2. Afful’s two long-range strikes provide a good example of Crew SC’s goal-scoring strategy on Saturday. With goals hard to come buy, Columbus took nearly half of their 24 shots from outside the penalty box.
  3. The goal-scoring strike is one of the best you’ll see from a defender in MLS.

Just a few minutes later, another corner kick puts the home team in the lead for good. Meram gets his first goal back in Columbus and sends the team to victory.

Here’s a look at Meram’s first goal back with the Black & Gold.

Both of Crew SC’s goals on Saturday came from corner kicks. Afful’s, seen above, is from a breakdown in a play but the winner comes directly from the kick.

With Higuain showing for a short corner, Santos plays a long ball into the penalty box toward Meram.

Meram is able to gain separation from his defender as the ball heads toward the back post.

The ball reaches its apex and Meram has a perfect sight line on the ball. His defender is left to scramble to catch up.

NYCFC’s goalkeeper, Johnson, takes the wrong line at the ball and must head back toward Meram.

Meram easily rises above his defender, caught flat footed, and sends a header toward . . .

. . . his own left arm. The referee listened to VAR after this goal but ultimately decided not to take a second look. The ball clearly hits Meram’s arm, but his arms are down in front of his body. As with weeks past, a handball in this situation is likely a judgment call.

Johnson is unable to recover and Meram’s header sends Crew SC to all three points.

Findings:

  1. Santos’s delivery here is excellent.
  2. If Johnson is able to judge the ball correctly, he should have been able to grab the corner kick.
  3. Meram’s free header does hit his arm, but the winger’s arms are not in an unnatural position.