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Anatomy of a Goal: Michel completes Orlando’s dissection of Columbus

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This week we look at Orlando’s 84th minute game-winner against the Crew.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-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 21 of the 2019 MLS Season we take a look at Benji Michel’s 84th minute goal that gave Orlando City SC a 1-0 win over the Crew on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the finish from the Orlando attacker.

Columbus rolled out a brand new formation against the Lions, dropping the typical 4-2-3-1 for a 4-3-3 in hopes of sparking some goals after a weeks of drought. While the Black & Gold dominated in possession and shots, the offensive ineptitude continued aside from a Gyasi Zardes shot off the post in the early minutes of the match.

Defensively, the Crew looked better than they have in weeks and prevented Orlando from doing much at all in the offensive third... until the final minutes of the match.

Before we dive in, let’s lay out a few key points of this Orlando City attack. The Lions are overloading their right attacking side and are desperate to make their offensive attack on that flank. Left back Kamal Miller is the only attacking width on the left side of this play, but he does little more than stand out wide and occupy Pedro Santos’ defensive attention despite not appearing to move much (in fact, Miller only appears in one still from this entire sequence, and it’s at a distance). Despite Orlando’s blatant overload of their right side, they still manage to make a simple attacking play from the right, sending Columbus to yet another loss.

Michel’s goal begins with a Brian Rowe toss to center back Robin Jansson. Jansson quickly plays the ball forward to central midfielder Sebastian Mendez.

The Black & Gold are not in an aggressive high press, but do press the Lions’ midfielders whenever they receive the ball from the backline. Eduardo Sosa pressures Mendez, forcing a pass back to Jansson.

Jansson slides a pass over to Oriol Rosell, who has dropped between the center backs a-la Wil Trapp in past years. The Crew are comfortable with Orlando passing around the backline and shift back into their defensive block.

Rosell attempts to connect with the midfield by playing a short pass to Carlos Ascues.

Ascues is immediately pressured by Zardes and Trapp, forcing a pass right back to Rosell.

Rosell switches play back over to Jansson, and Orlando City is right back where they were a few seconds ago.

Jansson drops the ball back to Rowe as the Lions reset their possession. To Rowe’s right, center back Lamine Sane drops back into a wide right position in hopes of finally moving the attack up the right flank after a few failed prods into the midfield.

Black & Gold attacker David Accam should be pressuring the left flank on this attack, but has been forced to drop further back into the defensive line due to Orlando’s overloaded right attacking side. With no pressure, and with Trapp having dropped back to cover Ascues, Sane has time to receive the ball on the wide right.

With Accam defending dozens of yards up the field, Sane has plenty of space to carry the ball forward.

Despite the Crew applying pressure just seconds before, Sane is able to carry the ball up the right side of the field and past the midfield line. Orlando’s overload has broken Columbus’ defensive shape and created space in which the Lions can carry the ball.

Trapp is forced to make a defensive choice between staying on Ascues or stepping to Sane on the ball. The Black & Gold captain takes a half-step toward Sane, leading the center back to quickly play a pass to Ascues.

As Trapp scrambles back, Ascues drops the ball right back to Sane.

Sane sees right back Ruan pushed all the way forward, a few yards ahead of Accam and a few yards toward the line from Waylon Francis. He chips a ball over the Crew backline and into the path of a clearly onside Ruan.

Toward the bottom of the image you can see Michel and Harrison Afful. Afful currently has defensive responsibility for Michel, though the attacker will like his chances 1 v. 1 against the Columbus’s attack-minded right back.

The Black & Gold’s fastest player on the right attacking flank, Accam, attempts to head the ball out of danger and takes himself out of the play by doing so. Ruan already has a few steps on Francis and will easily beat him in a footrace to the line.

Afful has a few steps on Michel, and must keep himself between Michel and the ball.

Ruan sprints toward Sane’s pass as Francis gives chase. Afful continues his defensive run up the middle of the field while Michel follows. Michel will attempt to run into the channel between Afful and Josh Williams while Dom Dwyer, who occupies Williams’ defensive attention, will away from the ball and behind Michell and Afful.

Perhaps this crossing run forces Afful into the difficult decision between sticking with the man closer to the ball and covering the totally open back post, and perhaps that is being too generous to Afful.

Ruan beats Francis to the ball and hits a first touch pass toward Michel. From this angle, it looks like Michel and Afful are running apace, though Michel has crossed to the ball’s side of Afful.

From behind the goal, you can see that Michel has now cut to Afful’s ball side and has at least one arm’s length of space. Afful is more or less running right down the middle of the goal. In the far distance on the image’s right, you can just make out Orlando’s left back doing nothing aside from occupying Santos’ attention.

Ruan’s pass rolls into the penalty box as Michel continues his run. Dwyer does well to trail this play and cut toward the back post. If the ball pops out, he will have an open shot on goal.

Michel has cut a few more feet away from Afful, who continues his defensive run up the middle of the goal. Afful must at least get his body onto Michel by the time the ball reaches the Orlando attacker.

He doesn’t, and Michel hits an untested shot on goal.

This image from behind the goal tells the whole story of this breakdown. Afful doesn’t seem to have turned to see Dwyer, yet he continues to run up the middle of the goal while Michel cuts six feet in front of him to the ball.

Joe Bendik can do little but watch as the ball jets past him . . .

. . . and into the back of the net.

Findings:

  1. The Crew’s defensive pressure initially works well. They force Orlando to pass along the backline and pressure the midfield.
  2. Unfortunately, the Lions’ attacking right overload also works. Accam is forced to defend deep in the midfield, allowing Sane to carry the ball forward and play a simple lofted pass to Ruan.
  3. Afful applies absolutely no defensive pressure to Michel. He runs right up the middle of the goal and doesn’t move an inch when Michel cuts a few yards inside him toward the ball. Maybe Afful is afraid to leave the back post open, but at this point his responsibility is to mark the open runner he can see.
  4. Yet again, Columbus dominates a match and are undone by one mental lapse. Though the last few matches have had their bright moments, these mental lapses continue to be unsettling and do little to inspire confidence from the outside.