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Anatomy of a Goal: Santos slides one home for the draw

This week, we look at Santos’s game-tying goal that gave the Crew a hard-fought draw in Dallas on Saturday.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at FC Dallas Jerome Miron-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 15 of the 2020 MLS Season, we take a look at Pedro Santos’ 62nd minute equalizer that secured a draw for the Crew in Dallas on Saturday.

Here is a look at the goal from the Columbus attacking midfielder.

The Black & Gold lined up for Saturday’s match against FC Dallas in a 4-1-4-1 for the first time this season. In place of two defensive midfielders, Caleb Porter deployed Santos and Lucas Zelarayan together as dual attacking midfielders. This formation succeeded in keeping Dallas from controlling the middle of the field but did expose the Crew wings to counter attacks from the quick Dallas wingers. Without a second defensive midfielder, and with Columbus’s fullbacks still pushed further up the field as attacking support, Dallas focused the team’s attacks up the wings where they would quickly switch the field of play to try and catch the Black & Gold off guard.

This plan worked out perfectly for FC Dallas in the 38th minute when a Fafa Picault cross found the head of Michael Barrios to give Dallas an early lead.

The Crew went back to its customary 4-2-3-1 formation after Zelarayan went off injured at halftime and settled into the match. Youness Mokhtar evened the match at the start of the second half for Columbus to go behind a few minutes later following a Dallas penalty kick.

We pick up Santos’ game-tying goal 10 minutes later.

Santos’ game-knotter begins with a Black & Gold free kick near midfield. Seconds before, Emmanuel Boateng entered the match for Mokhtar. Where Mokhtar played more inverted as a sort of tertiary (secondary after Zelarayan’s injury) creative midfielder, Boateng added another pacy option to the wings.

Harrison Afful stands over the ball and plays a short pass back to Aidan Morris.

Morris turns toward the middle of the field and has four options. He can play a pass back up to Afful, a diagonal pass forward to Artur, continue to carry the ball toward the middle of the field or a square pass to Josh Williams.

Morris hits a square pass to Williams who has about 30 yards of open space ahead of him.

Williams takes advantage of Dallas’ defensive shape and carries the ball further up the field.

The left center back spots Milton Valenzuela and plays a fast pass on the ground toward him.

As the ball travels toward Valenzuela, the Crew switch into attack mode. Boateng sprints into the channel between the Dallas right back and center back, Gyasi Zardes occupies both center backs and Santos runs into the space between the left back and left center back.

Valenzuela receives Williams’ pass as the full team attacking move continues. None of the FC Dallas midfielders tracked Boateng giving the pacey winger open space to run toward the goal. Zardes is still occupying the interest of both center backs which allows Santos to exploit the space between Dallas’s left back and center backs.

Valenzuela touches the ball forward and can either play a looping pass into the penalty box toward Zardes, a through pass to Boateng or carry the ball forward.

Valenzuela spots Boateng running free and hits a through pass out in front of the winger.

Boateng lets the ball roll in front of him as he continues his run forward. Zardes begins his work to get open for a cross, making a run toward the front post of the Dallas goal.

The ball moves in front of Boateng who will easily be able to reach it before the ball goes out of bounds. Zardes runs between the center backs toward the front post.

Boateng steps up to the ball and has three options. He can fire a shot on goal from a difficult angle, play a cross into the 18-yard box toward Zardes and Santos, trailing just behind the play or take a touch on the ball and carry it toward the goal.

Boateng sees Matt Hedges leaving Zardes and hits a pass on the ground toward his striker. Santos makes a late run into the penalty box and can clean up the play if the ball moves past Zardes.

The ball appears to be a bit behind Zardes as the striker turns to receive the pass.

Zardes reaches back with his trailing left foot to take a half touch on the ball. This slows the ball and allows Santos to time his run to meet the ball before any Dallas players.

Santos approaches the ball and must either take a first touch shot or touch the ball back to Zardes.

Santos decides to hit a sliding, first-touch shot on goal.

The ball soars up and to the right of Jimmy Maurer . . .

. . . and into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Williams carry the ball forward and play a long pass up to the left back. When teams drop back defensively, this new wrinkle allows Columbus to catch the defending team off-guard by sending runners and the ball into the attacking third simultaneously.
  2. Valenzuela’s entry pass to Boateng is spectacular. He realizes that Boateng has space in front of him and plays a ball up the channel for his teammate to run onto.
  3. Boateng recognizes the open space in front of him and does well to hit a low, driven cross into the penalty box.
  4. Zardes once again proves himself valuable by using his movement to free up his teammates. With both Hedges and Reto Ziegler bodying up the striker, Santos can slip in behind for his shot.
  5. Santos timed his run and shot perfectly. The Portuguese has come up huge for the Black & Gold during the past few matches.