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Anatomy of a Goal: Youness Mokhtar opens his Crew account

This week we look at Mokhtar’s 69th minute goal that gave the Crew a lead they wouldn’t relinquish against the Union on Saturday.

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 33 of the 2019 MLS Season, we take a look at Youness Mokhtar’s 69th minute goal, his first for the Black & Gold, that gave the Crew a lead they did not surrender against the Philadelphia Union on Sunday.

Here’s a look at the goal from the Columbus winger.

The Black & Gold entered the match officially eliminated from the MLS Cup playoffs after weeks of clinging to a small chance. Head coach Caleb Porter went with a different lineup against the Union, setting out in a 4-3-3 with three defensive midfielders. The formation held its own in the first half and, after a long weather delay, into the second. In the 57th minute, Porter made an attacking substitution by bringing in Mokhtar for David Guzman and settling back into the 4-2-3-1.

Mokhtar’s goal arrives the same way many have in the last few weeks, via a counter-attack. Warren Creavale approaches a pass at the top of the Columbus box and has three options. He can play a quick pass to Jamiro Monteiro, play a penetrating ball to Fafa Picault or play a pass wide to Brenden Aaronson.

Creavale slots an incisive pass into Picault who has center back Aboubacar Keita on his back.

Picault tries to beat Keita off the dribble as Connor Maloney rushes in to provide secondary pressure.

Picault’s move gets away from him, sending the ball toward the 18-yard line and setting off a quick footrace with Maloney.

Maloney beats Picault and looks to clear the ball out of danger but right into Wil Trapp.

The ball catches Trapp in the upper leg and ricochets toward the center of the 18-yard box into the path of Gyasi Zardes.

Zardes picks up the ricocheted clearance and sets off on the counter. Haris Mendunjanin dashes toward Zardes to cut off the counter while Luis Diaz springs forward to provide a passing option.

As he approaches Mendunjanin, Zardes must decide whether to beat the pressure on the dribble or to slide a simple pass into the path of Diaz.

Zardes makes the safe decision to play the ball to Diaz as Mendunjanin’s momentum carries him toward the goal. The counter-attack is on.

Diaz and a trio of teammates rush forward. Philadelphia is caught with only three defenders and its goalkeeper back, giving the Black & Gold an opportunity at a four-on-three attack.

Diaz carries the ball across the midfield line as Zardes sprints into a point position flanked by Pedro Santos and Mokthar out wide.

Diaz approaches the defensive pressure of Mark McKenzie and has four options. He can play a square pass to Santos, hit a long, diagonal ball to Mokhtar, send a through pass to Zardes or attempt to beat McKenzie on the dribble.

Diaz makes the safest decision and slots a square pass to an unmarked Santos.

Santos carries the ball toward Jack Elliott and can either play a diagonal pass to Mokhtar, hit a tough through pass to Zardes take a long shot on goal or attempt a through pass to Diaz.

Santos fakes a shot, getting Elliott to dive at the ball, and slides a pass over to Mokhtar.

Mokhtar collects the ball and takes a few dribbles toward the Union goal where he is met by Raymon Gaddis. Mokhtar now has four options: a shot on goal from a tough angle, a touch pass to Zardes who may or may not be onside, a pass back to Santos or to carry the ball toward the center of the penalty box.

Mokhtar carries the ball closer to the middle of the 18-yard box where he is met by Elliott. Carrying here forces Elliott to cover Mokhtar leaving McKenzie to decide between Santos and Zardes while Diaz pleads for the ball out wide.

Carrying the ball a few yards behind the penalty spot, Mokhtar finds himself with five options. The winger can play a tough touch pass to an onside Zardes, take a shot on goal hit a soft pass to Santos marked by McKenzie, play a pass across the box to Diaz or continue to dribble in the penalty box.

Mokhtar sees a brief window of space and decides to take a shot on goal around Elliott.

The low shot just beats Elliott and travels toward the post guarded by Andrew Blake. Blake dives toward the low shot . . .

. . . but is unable to get a glove on it. The Philadelphia defense can only watch as the ball rolls . . .

. . . into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. During the Crew’s solid run of form in the late season, the team focused heavily on the counter-attack. This strategy requires defensive organization which is seen on this play. Keita does well to stay in front of Picault and Maloney’s lucky clearance finds Zardes to spring the break.
  2. Most of the decisions made on this play involved the Columbus player making the most simple choice. Zardes, Diaz and Santos all play safe passes to wide open players which leads right to this goal scoring opportunity.
  3. Mokhtar’s shot, however, was anything but simple. The winger scores his first Black & Gold goal by beating a much taller defender and one of the league’s best goalkeepers. Rather than hammer in a high shot, Mokhtar places a low, driven effort to the right of Blake giving the Crew a lead the team did not give up.