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Anatomy of a Goal: Santos volleys in the equalizer

This week we look at Pedro Santos’ full volleyed equalizer against Toronto FC.

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 27 of the 2019 MLS Season, we take a look at Pedro Santos’ 48th minute volley that tied the match against Toronto FC on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the goal from the Crew’s attacker.

Columbus stayed home for the second consecutive week and looked to rebound from a thrilling but disappointing draw against in-state rivals, FC Cincinnati. The Black & Gold carried a five-match unbeaten streak and slim playoff hopes into Saturday’s match against their Trillium Cup rivals. Unfortunately, the Crew entered halftime down 1-0 following a late first half goal by Jonathan Osorio. Coming out for the second half, the unbeaten streak and any remaining playoff hopes were on the line.

Santos’ goal starts with Columbus in possession deep in the Toronto end. Connor Maloney hits a pass toward Youness Mokhtar and, hopefully, over Richie Laryea.

Maloney’s pass is far too short. Laryea heads the intercepted ball toward Michael Bradley.

Bradley then sends a first touch header toward Nick DeLeon on the sideline.

Maloney pressures DeLeon who quickly drops the ball back to Osorio.

Osorio turns and is immediately pressured by Artur. The Black & Gold are pressuring heavily here, hoping to turn the ball over and quickly counterattack. Under pressure, Osorio has six options. He can play a pass back to DeLeon who is pressured by Malone, drop a pass to Laryea, who is defended by Mokhtar, play a long pass to Alejandro Pozuelo, go short to Bradley, attempt to beat Artur off the dribble or play a diagonal pass to Jozy Altidore.

If Osorio is able to turn, he will see relatively simple passes to Pozuelo, Bradley or Altidore that could all send the Reds away from pressure and on the attack.

Artur’s pressure prevents Osorio from turning, forcing a pass back to DeLeon. Osorio then makes a run down the field, hoping to pull Artur with him. If the Brazilian midfielder follows, DeLeon should have a quick square pass to Bradley who can then switch the point of attack and move the ball away from pressure.

Artur does follow Osorio leaving DeLeon with three options. He can play a drop pass to Laryea, a square pass to Bradley or attempt to dribble out of pressure.

DeLeon sits on the ball for a half-second too long, and lets Mokhtar get into position between Bradley and Laryea, and DeLeon drops a pass back to Laryea.

Laryea decides to send the ball downfield toward Patrick Mullins and out of pressure.

The clearance is well over Mullins’ head. Josh Williams makes a play on the ball but either misses or grazes a header back to Jonathan Mensah.

Jonathan easily corrals the ball and can either play a diagonal pass back to Williams, a pass between Mullins and Altidore to Artur, a long ball across midfield to Wil Trapp, carry the ball forward or play a diagonal pass to Harrison Afful.

Jonathan sees the Crew captain come open across midfield and plays a pass toward him.

Trapp collects the ball and turns to survey his options. The Columbus attack did well to transition immediately from defense to counter during Laryea’s clearance and the brief interplay between the Black & Gold center backs. The attacking shape quickly resembles the typical attack.

Trapp carries the ball toward the Toronto goal and has four options:. He can play a long, diagonal pass to Mokhtar on the left wing, a chipped ball in front of Santos, who is already in motion toward the goal, carry the ball forward or play a diagonal pass in front of Afful.

Trapp decides to hit a long chip in front of Santos, who is running, unmarked, toward the goal.

Santos continues his run into the path of Trapp’s chip as Omar Gonzalez spots the run. Gonzalez will cut toward Santos in hopes of winning the ball over the much shorter attacker or cutting off his angle at goal.

Trapp’s pass carries into the goal box as Santos and Gonzalez give chase.

The ball falls over Santos’ head and toward the ground. Santos will only have time for one touch on the ball. He’ll either have to use his first touch to get around Gonzalez or he’ll have to immediately shoot the ball.

Santos decides to take a first touch shot. From this position, and from Santos’ left foot, the ball with have to take the difficult path to the far post if there is any chance of beating Quentin Westberg for a goal.

Westberg dives toward his far post as the ball crosses in front of him.

The Reds’ goalkeeper fully extends but is unable to get a hand on the ball as it bounds past him . . .

. . . into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. The Crew worked well as a pressing unit to force Laryea into a long clearance. In these situations, a long clearance is often the second-best result for the defensive team. If multiple attackers are forced to track back to help get the ball out of danger, there will be few downfield to challenge for the long pass.
  2. Trapp has had an up-and-down season but he still is able to hit perfectly-weighted long balls like his assist to Santos.
  3. Santos’ exceptional volley speaks for itself. The attacker has been free to play more expressively this season and it’s paid off with nine goals and plays like this one.