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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes hammers in the equalizer

This week we look at Gyasi Zarde’s game-tying header against San Jose.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-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 25 of the 2019 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 65th minute header that leveled the match and earned the Crew an important road point against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday.

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

The Black & Gold made the trip to California in the middle of a points streak and hopefully having turned the corner from their disastrous mid-season swoon. Against the Earthquakes, the Crew met a second consecutive side that presented a unique challenge. Like the Red Bulls, San Jose presses aggressively, but the Quakes use an uncommon man-marking approach that’s gives teams fits.

Columbus started the match well but quickly faded as left back Hector Jimenez was forced out of the game with an injury. San Jose then took full control and found the back of the net following an unfortunate handball in the box by Harrison Afful.

In the second half, the Crew still ceded the vast majority of possession to the Earthquakes, but was able to create many more chances and play resolute, if lucky, defense by attempting to counter attack.

Zardes’ equalizer begins with Jackson Yueill picking the ball up just above the Crew’s defensive 18-yard box. Yueill sees Cristian Espinoza with space on the right side of the penalty box and quickly slides a pass his way.

Espinoza collects the ball at the corner of the box and must then decide which option to take. He can attempt to beat David Accam and Aboubacar Keita off the dribble, cross the ball into Danny Hoesen or play a quick give-and-go with Magnus Eriksson.

Espinoza keeps the ball and attempts to use his pace to get around Keita.

Keita is able to keep Espinoza from cutting in toward the goal, forcing the winger to play a contested cross into Hoesen.

Espinoza’s cross just beats out Keita and Jonathan Mensah, but Afful easily collects the ball on the far side of the goal.

Afful takes control of the ball and sees yards of space ahead. Columbus’ right back immediately springs the counter attack.

Near the top of the 18-yard box, Afful spots Luis Diaz and hits a pass toward the young winger.

Diaz is pressed by left back Nick Lima very far into the Black & Gold’s defensive end, and must immediately decide whether to play a quick square pass to Pedro Santos, try to beat Lima off the dribble or play a long pass up the field to Zardes.

Diaz decides to take the most humiliating, for Lima, option and beat the defender off the dribble by nutmegging him and using his pace to get around the Earthquakes’ left back.

As soon as Lima opens his stance, Diaz takes a chance and passes the ball right through his legs.

Diaz then uses his pace to outrun Lima to the ball and sets off down the field on the counter attack.

Further down the field, Diaz is met by Florian Jungworth and again must decide whether to play a long pass to Zardes or to try and beat Jungworth off the dribble.

Confident from his last duel, Diaz also beats Jungworth in embarrassing fashion.

As Jungworth approaches, Diaz sends the ball to Jungworth’s left as he sprints to Jungworth’s right, turning the defender around and continuing his excellent run down the field with Zardes running apace.

Both Jungworth and Lima give chase as Diaz dribbles toward the end line. Zardes continues his run downfield behind center back Guram Kashia.

Diaz decides to hit an early cross into the box toward Zardes.

Unfortunately, Zardes is making a mid-goal or back-post run. Kashia slides in front of the cross and hits the ball back out toward the wing.

The ball bounces right back to Diaz. Zardes sees Kashia on the ground and Diaz with the ball, and immediately raises his hand for another cross into the penalty box.

Diaz obliges by hitting a cross toward the near post, right into the path of Zardes.

This time, Zardes gets in front of Kashia and has an unobstructed view of the ball as it travels into the 18-yard box.

Zardes jumps in anticipation of a headed chance and is totally uncontested.

When the ball arrives, Zardes redirects a header toward the goal.

Rather than head the ball directly in on goal, Zardes sends a bouncing header toward the goal. Balls headed down force the goalkeeper to react to both the header and the bounce. Vega guesses wrong on the initial header and can only watch as the ball bounces in the middle of the goal . . .

. . . and into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. Diaz does it all on this play. He wins two highlight-reel duels and plays a perfect second cross to Zardes. The young Designated Player’s signing has immediately paid off.
  2. Zardes probably makes the wrong initial run, sticking in the middle of the goal rather than going near post, but puts himself into position for the second cross and expertly heads home the goal.
  3. It took some individual moments of brilliance by Diaz, but this goal was reflective of the Crew’s second half scheme. They were happy to defend San Jose and spring counter attacks. It paid off with no goals allowed and multiple chances in that half, securing an important road point.