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Anatomy of a Goal: Accam races past Columbus

This week we look at David Accam’s first goal in a match to forget for the Crew.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Philadelphia Union Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

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

For match four of the 2019 MLS Season, we take a look at David Accam’s 31st minute goal, off a razor sharp Philadelphia Union counter attack, that put the Union up 1-0 as part of their 3-0 win over the Crew.

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

Lacking three key starters who make up the spine of their team (Zack Steffen, Wil Trapp and Gyasi Zardes), most expected the Crew to struggle on the road against the Union. It wasn’t expected that Columbus would look as defensively unorganized and offensively invisible as they did against in Philly. Steffen’s ability to organize his defense was never more evident than when he was out of the match and a typically rock-solid defense tripped over itself on multiple occasions.

Accam’s first goal, while an impressively efficient counter attack by the Union, shows exactly how vital the Black & Gold’s three missing starters are. This goal directly involves each of their replacements not necessarily making a poor play, but failing to play in a way that the missing three typically do.

The goal begins with a Crew turnover in the Philadelphia attacking half.

Gaston Sauro sees Federico Higuain open across the midfield and fires an excellent ball to his fellow Argentine.

Sauro’s pass catches Alejandro Bedoya unaware and heads right toward Higuain. When he receives the pass, Columbus’ No. 10 will have three options: a touch pass out to Robinho on the wing to settle the ball and turn up the field or a quick flick or turn-around pass to Patrick Mullins.

Higuain decides to play a back-heel flick to Mullins.

However, Mullins is further up the field than Higuain expected and the midfielder’s pass does not have enough pace to reach the striker. Mullins has to scramble back toward the ball as Higuain makes his run up the field.

Union center back Jack Elliott is able to get in front of Mullins and win the ball, immediately starting a counterattack.

It is tough to say whether Zardes would have been in a better position to receive Higuain’s pass, but his more physical play might have given him an advantage against Elliott that Mullins clearly lacked as he was easily beaten to this ball.

Elliott’s momentum takes him an extra yard toward his own goal, giving Higuain time to apply defensive pressure. Higuain is attempting to set off the Black & Gold’s counter-press after turning over the ball. If successful, his pressure will force Elliott into a backwards pass or a turnover.

With Higuain applying pressure, Elliott can either play a drop pass or a tough pass up the field to Bedoya.

Elliott is somehow able to redirect his momentum and hit an excellent pass forward to Bedoya, breaking Higuain’s pressure.

Bedoya receives the ball in a pocket free of pressure. He immediately has four options as Artur attempts to recover into a defensive position. He can play a pass on the wing to Ilsinho, turn up field and carry the ball forward, hit a long diagonal pass to Accam or play a quick square pass to Haris Mendunjanin.

Bedoya plays a safe pass to Mendunjanin, setting up his midfield counterpart for a brief run up the field.

As Mendunjanin nears the midfield line he has multiple options as well with his team on the counterattack. The midfielder can play a diagonal pass to Brenden Aaronson, a tough ball around Ricardo Clark to Fafa Picault, continue to carry the ball forward or play a through pass to Accam.

Mendunjanin is able to thread the needle around Clark to Picault. Clarke is stuck in a tough spot here, not far enough back to provide defensive cover and not close enough to Mendunjanin to make his pass more difficult.

Picault will pick up the pass with room to run as Accam continues up the left side of the field. Jonathan Mensah briefly reacts to Picault but has the presence of mind to try to run with the more dangerous Accam.

Picault turns up the field and Accam runs just ahead of him. Jonathan is tucked between the two Union attackers with no defensive help.

Jonathan is able get level with Accam but is still susceptible to a through pass to the speedy attacker.

Picault does exactly that, slotting a pass into the space ahead of Accam.

Accam runs onto the ball while Jonathan tries to close down the distance between them or force the Union winger into a shot from a difficult angle.

Jonathan cuts off Accam’s path to the middle of the box and Joe Bendik comes off his line to cut off the angle on the goal.

Accam hits a low shot toward the outside post.

Bendik sticks out a leg but just misses deflecting the ball toward Sauro or Harrison Afful.

Accam’s shot rolls toward the goal as all of Columbus hopes it goes just a few more inches to the right.

The ball hits the post . . .

. . . bounces back toward the goal . . .

. . . and into the back of the net.

Findings:

  1. The Crew attack breaks down with Higuain’s attempted flick to Mullins. Who knows if the flick have worked out better, or less horribly, with Zardes on the field, but it clearly did not work out here.
  2. Philadelphia made one difficult play — Elliott’s pass to Bedoya — and some small, simple plays to slice up the Columbus defense. When Higuain’s lone pressure did not slow the Union, they quickly exposed a team unprepared to defend a quick attack.
  3. Bendik did really well to cut off Accam’s angle to the near post, leaving him to only try a chip or hit a roller to the right. It’s always possible for a left-footed shot sent right to continue curling to the right but Accam hit this one absolutely perfectly.