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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes pounces on the opener against FC Cincinnati

This week we look at Gyasi Zardes’s opening goal against Ohio rivals FC Cincinnati.

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 29 of the 2019 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 22nd minute goal that put the Crew up 1-0 and started the rout against FC Cincinnati on Sunday.

Here’s a look at the first goal of the night for the Columbus striker.

The Black & Gold entered the second and final Hell is Real Derby of 2019 almost certainly, if not mathematically, eliminated from the playoffs. Following a disappointing but thrilling come-from-behind draw against FC Cincy when their Ohio rivals visited MAPFRE Stadium just two weeks ago, the Crew had the pride of Ohio and a sold out traveling supporters section to play for on Sunday.

Zardes’ goal begins like many plays in the first half. In possession of the ball, the Columbus defenders passed all the way back to goalkeeper Eloy Room. Typically, Room would play a short pass to a nearby defender, but in this instance, he decides to clear the ball downfield toward Zardes.

Cincinnati center back Maikel van der Werff fights Zardes for positioning as Room’s clearance falls toward them.

Zardes wins the battle and brings down the ball with an excellent first touch. He then slides the ball over to Pedro Santos who is running unmarked in transition.

Immediately after passing the ball to Santos, Zardes turns and begins to run toward the Cincinnati goal. Santos uses a heavy touch to send the ball toward midfield as Luis Diaz begins his own run downfield against a flat-footed Andrew Gutman.

Gutman recovers to stay in front of Diaz but then sees Santos running toward him with Caleb Stanko trailing. Instead of sticking with Santos and trusting Stanko to catch up to the Columbus attacker, Gutman leaves Diaz to run at Santos, allowing Diaz to continue his run with no markers between him and the goal.

Santos must recover his heavy touch and will have to decide what to do as Gutman approaches. He can either olay a long diagonal ball to Zardes, attempt to beat Gutman off the dribble or play a through pass to Diaz.

Santos decides to make a quick pass to a wide-open Diaz, who is held onside by Kendall Waston. Zardes continues his run down the middle of the field.

Gutman barely misses intercepting Santos’ pass, and the ball easily makes its way over to Diaz.

Diaz has time and space to carry the ball forward as Santos takes a tumble following contact from Gutman. Zardes and van der Werff continue their battle from earlier in the play and race down the middle of the field.

As Diaz approaches the goal box, he decides to put in an early cross toward Zardes. The Black & Gold sent in multiple early crosses during the first half of this match, trusting their striker’s ability to beat either of FC Cincy’s center backs in a one-on-one battle.

Zardes is onside as Diaz’s pass curves toward the middle of the penalty box. Van der Werff and Zardes are in a footrace to the ball with no defenders between them and the goal.

Van der Werff is a few steps ahead of Zardes but a yard too close to the sideline. He will miss reaching Diaz’s inch-perfect curler by just a few feet.

Zardes, however, will not miss the pass. The Crew striker approaches the ball and must decide whether to take an additional touch before shooting or to take a first-touch shot on goal.

Zardes decides that shooting is the best course of action and fires a shot to the far post.

Przemyslaw Tyton is positioned to take away the near post and gets caught wrong-footed as Zardes’ shot cuts to his left.

Cincinnati’s goalkeeper has his back turned to the ball as it flies past him . . .

. . . into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. Zardes’ hold-up play was exceptional here and for much of the match. He easily won the physical battle with van der Werff and used his underrated first touch to settle the long clearance.
  2. Gutman makes the wrong decision by leaving Diaz. The Crew picked on the left back all match and he paid for it by being on the wrong end of all three goals. Santos easily recognized Gutman’s mistake and made the defender pay with a simple pass to Diaz.
  3. Diaz’s pass to Zardes was spectacular. The young Designated Player curled the ball around van der Werff and right to the foot of Zardes
  4. Zardes again uses his first touch to his advantage by smashing home a perfectly placed shot.