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Anatomy of a Goal: Moreira cuts down the Crew

This week we look at Jorge Moreira’s game-sealing goal that sent Columbus to a second straight defeat.

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 eight of the 2019 MLS Season, we take a look at Jorge Moreira’s 91st minute goal that sealed the Portland Timbers 3-1 victory over the Crew on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish from the Portland right-back.

Portland traveled to Columbus with only one point, six goals for and 17 goals against through their first six matches. The Black & Gold hoped that the Timbers’ defensive struggles would lead to the Crew finally busting out of their almost two-year offensive funk. Instead, Columbus continued their streak of fruitless possession while Portland made the most of their chances.

In stoppage time, the Black & Gold, or the sky blue during Saturday’s match, found themselves down a goal but pushing for a goal that would salvage a home point. Instead, the Timbers scored a goal of their own to seal a victory. Their goal begins from a throw-in deep in the Columbus defensive end.

Sebastian Blanco will toss the ball a few yards forward to Tomas Conechny. Conechny will then be pressured by Wil Trapp and Federico Higuain.

It’s important to note that at this point in the match, right back Hector Jimenez had been replaced by rookie striker JJ Williams. In this defensive setup, on this particular play, Trapp has dropped back into the right back role. With Artur replaced by Eduardo Sosa, Higuain is forced to drop back to provide defensive cover. Jonathan Mensah stands in the middle of the penalty box, directing Higuain or Sosa to mark Cristhian Paredes who has found a spot in the middle of the field near the top of the penalty box.

Sosa is stuck with a difficult defensive assignment. He must pay attention to Zarek Valentin and also must attempt to cut off a passing angle to Paredes. With Portland’s spacing, that proves to be an impossible task.

Blanco makes his pass to Conechny and then cuts toward the goal. Conechny will play a beautiful outside the foot flick back to Blanco that just splits Trapp and Higuain.

On the far right of the image, Pedro Santos tracks back to help mark Valentin. This should be Sosa’s cue to shift toward Paredes in the center of the field, but the young midfielder doesn’t make a move with any sense of urgency.

Blanco picks up Conechny’s flick and takes a touch toward the goal. Sosa is now in a defensive scramble to cut off the angle to Paredes.

Blanco picks his head up and has four options. He can play a field-switching pass over the defense to Moreira, continue to carry the ball toward Jonathan, play a pass into the penalty box to Lucas Melano or play a pass across the face of Sosa to Paredes.

Blanco hits a well-paced pass right to Paredes. Sosa has nearly recovered but is a few yards too close to the sideline to have the proper angle to intercept the pass.

Paredes picks up Blanco’s pass in a dangerous position, flanked by Melano to his left and Moreira to his right.

Waylon Francis sees Paredes receive the ball with space to shoot and immediately takes a few steps toward the Timbers’ defensive midfielder. Francis does not over-commit, but his shifted momentum provides an extra few yards of space between him and Moreira. Moreira sees Paredes receive Blanco’s pass and immediately cuts into the penalty box.

With the ball on his right foot and Gaston Sauro bearing down, Paredes can either play a through pass to Melano, shoot on goal or play a diagonal pass to Moreira.

Sauro’s tackle attempt just misses as Paredes slides the ball over to Moreira.

Moreira steps to the pass and has two first touch options: a quick shot or a pass right back to Paredes.

Moreira decides to shoot, firing the ball over a sliding Francis.

Zack Steffen can do nothing but watch the ball zoom across the goal . . .

. . . and into the back of the net.

Findings:

  1. The Crew’s, necessary, offensive substitutions prove to be their undoing on this goal. Higuain and Sosa were forced into unfamiliar defensive responsibilities and the left side of the midfield is nowhere to be found.
  2. Portland took full advantage of Columbus. Instead of sitting on the ball in the corner, Conechny’s quick pass to Blanco caught the Black & Gold off guard and set up a goal-scoring opportunity.
  3. Paredes made an excellent choice to play the ball to his right rather than take a shot. Sauro might have been able to get a touch on the ball had it been shot toward the goal.
  4. Moreira put the ball exactly where he had to, sending his team back to the Pacific Northwest with all three points.