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Anatomy of a Goal: Sauro heads home another winner

This week we look at Gaston Sauro’s game-winning goal against FC Dallas.

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

For match three of the 2019 MLS season, we take a look at Gaston Sauro’s 10th minute header, his second of the season, that pub the Crew up 1-0 as part of their win over FC Dallas on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish from the Columbus center-back.

The Black & Gold came into Saturday’s game riding a two-match unbeaten streak to start the year. From the beginning of the match through the scoring of Sauro’s goal, the Crew played some of their best soccer of the season, possessing the ball with purpose and immediately adding pressure in Dallas’ half after a turnover.

Columbus’ (only) goal of the match gives us a chance to look at one of Caleb Porter’s designed corner kicks and the roles that each player takes during the set piece.

Wil Trapp and Waylon Francis are the two defensive players in this setup, dropping back outside of the image to prevent a quick Dallas counter attack.

At the top of the box, Francis and Federico Higuain will both hold their positions. These two will also look to break up a counter attack but will also look to recycle or shoot any loose balls.

Jonathan Mensah is the first Columbus man in motion on this play. Before Pedro Santos sends the ball into the penalty box, Jonathan loops behind Artur and then cuts back toward Gyasi Zardes. This looping run is intended to create confusion for Jonathan’s defender and change the angle of the secondary run of the center back. Following this move, Jonathan cuts toward the front post, behind Sauro. There, Jonathan will look to head a direct pass from Santos onto the goal or to head in a flick from Sauro.

Artur’s main role in the setup of this play is to set screens. He occupies his man while also acting as an obstacle for Jonathan’s defender and actively blocking Zardes’ defender as the forward makes his run.

Zardes will make his run as Santos begins his run up to the ball. After Jonathan has completed his journey around Artur, who is forcing his man a few feet toward the middle of the penalty box, Zardes will make his own run around Artur. If successful, Artur will get in the way of Zardes’ defender and give the Black & Gold’s best heading option a chance to get on the end of Santos’ cross.

Sauro, our eventual goal scorer, will hold his position and flick on any near-post corners into play or, hopefully, into the goal.

Robinho starts out by Dallas goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez and will then cut toward the back post. Here, Robinho will be in position to hammer home anything that gets flicked in his direction.

That’s a lot of information in one picture, so let’s break the moves down into individual moments.

Santos waits on the ball as Jonathan is in the middle of his run around Artur. Jonathan’s defender is still actively defending the Crew center back but will have to react to Jonathan’s next move.

Here, you can see Jonathan’s cut toward Sauro and Zardes begin to separate himself from Matt Hedges. Hedges has a full two inches on Zardes, and did an excellent job preventing Zardes from winning any midfield clearances during the match, so the striker will have to create separation to have a chance at the ball.

Jonathan is able to lose Marquinhos Pedroso with no real effort. In the image above you can see Pedroso wrap his right arm around Jonathan.

This video shows Pedroso tripping himself while marking Jonathan. It is unclear whether Pedroso is attempting to go around Jonathan or to establish position behind the center back, but he ends up wrapping one arm around Jonathan and then falling down. Pedroso is lucky that Jonathan does not trip over his outstretched left foot.

With Jonathan free from his defender and drifting toward the near post, Zardes begins his quick cut around Artur.

Hedges recognizes Zardes’ move and heads under the Artur screen. This will still give Zardes a glimpse at a free header but will allow Hedges to recover in time to potentially contest the cross. Jonathan drifts toward the near post and Robinho begins to cut toward the back.

Artur will take a few steps toward the six-yard box and into the path of Hedges, cutting off the Dallas center back’s angle to Zardes. Sauro and Rego Ziegler embrace one another in a physical battle for position.

With the ball in the early stages of its path you can see Ziegler’s arms wrapped around Sauro. The center back is at least two inches taller than Ziegler, so the Dallas defender will have little chance to out-jump his opponent.

Artur has successfully gotten in Hedges’ way, giving Zardes an open look at the ball. Jonathan also has a clear look.

Sauro sees the ball heading his way and prepares to jump. Ziegler keeps his arm around the center back and will not even jump to contest Sauro’s header.

Being held by Ziegler, Sauro jumps to head the ball into one of three spots: on goal, to the back post where Robinho will have a chance at a shot or toward Jonathan.

Despite being wrapped up, Sauro is able to get into the air.

The center back heads the ball toward the goal. Robinho is in position to pounce on a ball that is parried across the face of the goal.

Gonzalez and Paxton Pomkyal both watch as Sauro’s header travels right over them . . .

. . . into the back of the net!


  1. This goal provides a great look at how Porter is designing set pieces for the Crew. Sauro’s goal against New York was from a similar position but based on totally different movement.
  2. Artur does an excellent job of setting a screen on Hedges without actually setting a screen.
  3. Multiple Columbus players are in excellent positions to finish on this play. Jonathan also could have drawn a penalty had he gotten tangled up with Pedroso.
  4. Sauro does an excellent job of putting the ball in the back of the net despite being held down by Ziegler.