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Anatomy of a Goal: Manotas trickles in an early winner

This week we look at Mauro Manotas’s early goal that took advantage of a Columbus miscue.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-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 10 of the 2019 MLS Season, we take a look at Mauro Manotas’ third minute goal that put the Houston Dynamo up 1-0, sending the Crew to their fourth straight loss on Saturday.

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

Columbus limped into Saturday’s match on a three-game losing streak, playing their third match in eight days. With Federico Higuain, Jonathan Mensah, and Artur out of the lineup, the Black & Gold fielded a second-choice spine against a dangerous Dynamo team.

The Crew began the match with a spell of possession, and that’s where we pick up on Houston’s first goal. Waylon Francis possesses the ball on the sideline and has two options: a drop pass to Lalas Abubakar or a quick touch pass to Justin Meram.

Francis makes the short pass to Meram. Just to Meram’s right, Eduardo Sosa, filling in for Higuain, points forward toward either a through pass that would set him free or a longer pass up to an open Gyasi Zardes. Either would have been a good, quick passing choice for Meram.

Meram turns toward the middle of the field and has five options. He can carry the ball up the filled toward Alberth Elis, play a long pass to Zardes, a quick touch pass to Sosa, a dangerous drop pass to Wil Trapp, or a longer drop ball to Abubakar.

Meram plays a touch pass to Sosa who has space to move forward.

Instead, Sosa touches the ball right back to Meram who is now heavily pressured by Elis.

Meram turns toward Abubakar and makes the pass that sets Houston’s goal in motion. Abubakar is nearly 30 yards behind Meram. For the drop pass to be successful, it will have to be played with some velocity. It is not.

Elis chases the soft pass from Meram as Abubakar attempts to beat the Dynamo striker to the ball. Trapp drops into better position to receive a quick, first-touch pass from Abubakar.

Abubakar will beat Elis to the ball but just barely. The Columbus center back has three options but will need to play a pass with his first touch. He can play a long clearance up the field and out of danger, knock a pass up the sideline to Francis or play a simple touch pass to Trapp.

Abubakar does none of those. He instead misplays the ball letting it roll past him and setting off a goal-ward race with Elis.

Elis is able to get a touch onto the ball, sending it toward the goal and himself ahead of Abubakar.

Elis has a clear path forward as Abubakar gives chase. Trapp attempts to recover between Elis and Manotas while Manotas runs toward goal as a passing option. At the bottom of the screen Gaston Sauro cuts toward the goal at an angle, in hopes of meeting Manotas before he gets in on goal.

Elis’ run continues and sends him near the penalty box. Abubakar has recovered but will need to make up serious ground if he hopes to get in front of Elis. Manotas and Sauro are in a footrace to see if the midfielder can beat the Black & Gold’s center back to a spot inside the 18-yard box.

Abubakar recovers onto Elis forcing the striker to decide whether to take a shot on goal or play a pass into Manotas who will be defended by Sauro.

Elis slides the ball toward Manotas.

The pass is just behind Manotas, who is unable to turn onto the ball with Sauro on his hip.

Somehow, Manotas is able to get a touch onto the ball and redirects a slow roller toward the goal.

Zack Steffen had already begun to dive toward the (open) back post and is unfortunate to see the ball slowly rolling toward the near post.

Sauro and Steffen both are unable to get on the end of Manotas’s touch toward the goal.

Steffen can do nothing other than lie on the field as he watches the ball slowly roll . . .

. . . into the back of the net.


  1. Meram’s pass to Abubakar was absolutely too weak, but the young center back must have the wherewithal to play a one-touch pass out of danger.
  2. Abubakar does well to recover onto Elis and force a pass or shot in an area that should be defensible.
  3. Sauro also did well to recover on Manotas. He took the correct angle to meet Manotas on the ball and cut off his shooting angle forcing Manotas into an awkward touch that somehow trickled into the goal.
  4. Manotas’ goal was beyond fortunate. From the best angle it looks like he just miss hits a first-touch shot and gets lucky to have the ball trickle forward. Soccer, as always, is a game of inches.