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Anatomy of a Goal: Gressel grabs a winner for D.C. United

This week we look at Julian Gressel’s 32nd minute goal that sent D.C. United to a win against the Crew.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back 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 20 of the 2020 MLS Season, we take a look at Julian Gressel’s 32nd minute goal, the result of some deft one-touch passes, that sent D.C. United to a 1-0 win over the Crew on Wednesday night.

Here is a look at the goal from D.C.’s winger.

Columbus traveled to D.C. still looking for the team’s. first non-MLS is Back Tournament road win of the season. United welcomed the Black & Gold looking to make a late-season push for the last MLS Cup playoff spot in the Easter Conference.

Gressel’s goal begins with a D.C. throw in. The Crew maintained most of the possession through the early portion of the match, but United began to settle in as the halftime whistle neared.

Oniel Fisher takes the throw and quickly finds Frederic Brillant.

With Columbus defending in a deep defensive shell, Brillant plays a quick square pass over to Junior Moreno.

Sebastian Berhalter steps toward Moreno who quickly passes the ball around the young midfielder to Yamil Asad.

Asad takes a quick touch and drops the ball back to Russel Canouse.

Canouse surveys the field and carries the ball back toward the center circle. D.C.’s midfielder drops the ball back to Donovan Pines to reset the United attack.

Pines take a touch and surveys the field. He spots Asad drifting into the space between the Black & Gold’s midfield and defense and quickly hits a pass toward the winger.

Asad, unmarked, waits for Pines’ pass and lets the ball run past him.

Now facing the Crew goal, Asad has three options. He can play a long diagonal pass toward Gressel, play a pass straight ahead to Edison Flores or carry the ball toward Youness Mokhtar.

Asad finds Flores who retreats toward the midfield as he collects the pass.

Waylon Francis applies heavy pressure to Flores who carries a few steps toward the sideline before finding Fisher with a quick, outside-foot pass.

Fisher takes a touch to settle the ball and then plays a diagonal drop to Asad.

This next sequence is worth looking at in motion because it is an excellent bit of one-touch passing by United and is the dagger that unlocks the Black & Gold’s defense.

Asad steps toward Fisher’s pass while Fisher drops back into a square position, allowing Asad to hit a first-touch pass his way.

Fisher approaches the ball and spies Canouse opening himself up for a quick pass, and plays his own first-touch pass toward the midfielder.

Canouse approaches the ball and has four options. He can carry the ball forward, toward the Crew goal, play a touch pass forward toward Flores, hit a pass over or around Fatai Alashe toward Asad or play a square pass back to Fisher.

Canouse opts to send a first-touch pass to Flores while Asad shifts his weight toward the touchline.

Flores posts up Francis and flicks an excellent first-touch pass into the path of Asad.

Asad and Alashe are off to the races, but Alashe is not positioned to win this battle. D.C. has set Asad free with a series of quick, first-touch passes that drew Columbus toward the ball only to exploit the space the Black & Gold vacated.

Asad catches up to the ball and immediately finds himself with three options. He can hit a cross toward Gressel just inside the 18-yard box, play a cross out in front of Gelmin Rivas or carry the ball into the penalty box.

From this image, it appears that the Crew defenders think that Rivas is making a run toward the near post while the taller Gressel will make a run toward the far post. Chris Cadden spots Gressel and moves toward the goal like he expects the United winger to continue toward the back post.

Asad spots Gressel holding up his run and hits a low, first-touch, cross toward the back of the 18-yard box.

Gressel has to quickly shift his momentum to reach Asad’s pass. Because Gressel had slowed down he is easily able to reposition and give himself about four yards of open space.

The United winger takes a quick touch to tee up a shot while the Columbus defense scrambles to get in front of the ball.

Gressel takes aim while both Cadden and Aboubacar Keita throwing their bodies in front of the ball.

He gets the shot off but the ball deflects off one of the Columbus defenders.

The ball slows and deflects toward the corner to the right of Eloy Room.

Room, though otherwise prepared to make a save, can only watch as the ball soars to his right . . .

. . . into the back of the net.


  1. The Black & Gold don’t get a touch on the ball until the deflection that beats Room.
  2. D.C.’s excellent one-touch sequence is the big takeaway from this play. The team sucks the Crew pressure toward the ball allowing Asad to run free.
  3. Gressel does an excellent job at varying his run. Cadden assumes the 6-foot-1 Gressel will run toward the back post for a header but he instead stays near the back of the penalty box for an open shot. Excellent play by the winger.