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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes rebounds the equalizer

This week we look at Gyasi Zardes’s equalizing goal against Atlanta United FC

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-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 31 of the 2019 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 53rd minute half-volley that leveled the match and helped secure a victory against Atlanta United on Saturday.

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

The Black & Gold traveled south with an outside shot at making the playoffs should the team win out and get some help. Despite an early-season win in Columbus, aided by a water-logged field and poor early-season form for Atlanta, the Crew has always struggled against the Five Stripes. Down 1-0 at the half, it appeared that those struggles would continue and that the playoff dream would officially be crushed.

Zardes’ goal begins on an Atlanta attack and Crew counter.

Former Columbus attacker Justin Meram eyes Julian Gressel making a run toward the goal and hits a long diagonal pass his way. Defender Connor Maloney follows behind Gressel and will attempt to cut off the cross’ angle.

Meram’s pass is too soft, allowing Maloney to cut inside of Gressel and intercept the ball. Maloney makes a first-touch clearance back toward midfield.

Pedro Santos, Emerson Hyndman and David Guzman all set off in a foot race to Maloney’s clearance.

Guzman and Hyndman arrive at the same time. Guzman attempts a half turn on the ball and is able to redirect it into the path of Santos.

Santos picks up the ball and heads toward midfield where he spots Zardes running unmarked across the midfield line.

With Zardes on the move, Santos hits a long pass toward his striker, setting off the counter-attack.

Zardes continues his run up the field as Santos’ pass makes its way toward him. Luis Diaz hugs the opposite touchline, forcing Atlanta to either defend wide or let the speedy winger run free.

Zardes picks up the ball and immediately cuts around Miles Robinson and toward the middle of the field. Diaz continues his run behind Florentin Pogba, who will be forced to choose between sticking with Diaz or attempting to stop Zardes and the ball.

Pogba leaves Diaz and joins Robinson in their quest to dispossess Zardes. With two defenders between him and the goal, Zardes has three options. He can play a diagonal pass that could send Diaz in on goal, attempt to beat Pogba and Robinson off the dribble or play a pass back to Santos.

Zardes decides to pass to Diaz, but first must get around Pogba’s outstretched foot.

He takes a deft, half-touch to the right and slides a pass toward Diaz.

Zardes’ pass slides around Pogba and into the penalty box as Diaz continues his run.

Diaz approaches the ball and must decide whether he will hit a first-touch shot on goal or attempt to carry the ball to a better angle for a shot.

Diaz decides to shoot, firing the ball at Brad Guzan.

Guzan is well positioned to block Diaz’s shot, parrying the winger’s strike back toward the top of the 18-yard box.

Zardes, beside Pogba, drifted to the top of the penalty box after his pass to Diaz. Guzan’s parry falls right in front of the waiting striker.

Guzan’s parried save bounces just in front of Zardes, falling toward his left foot. The Crew striker can then either carry the toward the goal, fire in a left-footed shot or play a soft pass to Youness Mokhtar.

Zardes decides to take a first-touch, left-footed shot on goal. Five Stripes’ defender Franco Escobar has joined Guzan on the goal line, increasing the level of difficulty on the shot. Zardes will have to beat both Guzan and Escobar using his weaker foot.

The rocket shot is on frame and headed toward the upper 90. Escobar attempts to get his head on the ball but he and Guzan can only watch as the ball sails . . .

. . . into the back of the net!


  1. Maloney positions himself well to intercept Meram’s pass, cutting inside Gressel and clearing the ball forward.
  2. Santos’ long ball to Zardes shows how much the Crew’s playing style has changed during the late part of the season, with possession and short passing replaced by defensive organization and counter attacks.
  3. Zardes does a lot of heavy lifting here. He deftly beats both Robinson and Pogba and smashes home an impressive shot with his weak foot.