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Anatomy of a Goal: Novillo takes advantage of Crew mistake

This week we look at Harry Novillo’s game-winning goal for the Montreal Impact.

Eric Bolte-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 seven of the 2019 MLS Season, we take a look at Harry Novillo’s 55th minute goal that gave the Montreal Impact a win over the Crew on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish from the Montreal winger.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but offensive struggles once again plagued Columbus. The Black & Gold maintained a solid possession edge but were ultimately unable to put a goal on the board in the first half against the Impact. Montreal was comfortable absorbing pressure and playing on the counterattack, leading directly to the game’s only goal in the 55th minute.

It’s easy to put blame on the Crew’s center backs here, but this goal really was the perfect storm of a few unfortunate bounces and a shielded goalkeeper. Let’s take a look at why is the case.

Novillo’s goal begins with a long Evan Bush clearance. The Impact goalkeeper sends the ball downfield after a brief bit of possession for the hosts.

Josh Williams waits under the ball to head it forward or bring it down into possession, but will misplay the ball by a few yards. Jonathan Mensah waits to Williams right while Maximiliano Urruti holds his position until he sees where the ball will land.

The ball sails over Williams’ head and takes a high bounce on the frozen Montreal pitch. Urruti heads toward the space between Williams and Jonathan as Williams darts back toward the ball.

Williams heads the ball toward Jonathan on a high bounce.

Jonathan either thought Williams would play the ball toward the goal or overran the lofted header. Either way, Jonathan must redirect his momentum back toward midfield. The lofted ball and Jonathan’s redirection combine to give Urruti a few seconds to head toward the Columbus center back to apply defensive pressure.

Jonathan reaches the ball and awkwardly attempts a headed pass back toward the feet of Williams. Instead, the ball will bounce right at Urruti’s feet.

Urruti instinctively reacts, catching Jonathan’s header with his right foot. He sends the ball to his right (Jonathan’s left) and cuts left around Jonathan.

Now, Urruti and Jonathan are in a race to the ball with no other defenders between the ball and goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

Urruti and Jonathan race toward the ball as both teams scramble into position. Williams heads down the middle of the of the field to provide cover. Michael Azira and Novillo trail the play while Saphir Taider follows just behind.

Jonathan does well to recover his defensive position and forces Urruti to play with his back toward the goal. Urruti has four options. He can play a layoff to Novillo, play a similar drop to Taider, play a quick ball back to Azira or attempt to turn on Jonathan.

Urruti opts to lay the ball off to Novillo, just before losing his footing on the hard surface.

Novillo has his full momentum heading toward the goal and three immediate options: either attempt to beat Jonathan with a shot or off the dribble, send a through pass to Taider or play a longer through pass to Azira.

Jonathan has done well to recover, and has placed his body between Novillo and the goal.

Unfortunately, Jonathan is also blocking Steffen’s view of the ball. So, when Novillo decides to fire a shot on goal, Steffen will have less time to react.

Jonathan sees Novillo’s shot and is able to stick a foot out in front of the ball.

But the ball sails just under his outstretched left leg and heads toward the goal.

Steffen has little time to react to Novillo’s low ball driven toward his near post, and dives but sees the ball go just past his fingertips . . .

. . . and into the back of the net.

Findings:

  1. As always, soccer is a game of inches. Williams barely misplays the initial ball, Jonathan’s header back just happens to be within reach of Urruti’s foot, and Novillo’s shot narrowly avoids ricocheting off Jonathan’s foot.
  2. Despite his missed header, Jonathan does well to recover onto Urruti and force his back toward goal. Unfortunately, Novillo is able to hit an excellent shot.
  3. Novillo’s shot on goal was not as easy as it looked. The winger had full momentum heading toward the goal with the ball rolling back to him. It’s easy to send a ball like that flying over the goal, and out of the stadium, but Novillo got his head down over the ball to send a rocket past Steffen at the near post.