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Anatomy of a Goal: Santos sends the Crew to the Eastern Conference Final

This week we look at Pedro Santos’ extra time goal that gave the Crew a playoff win against Nashville on Sunday.

MLS: Nashville SC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to the Anatomy of a Goal, where each week we dissect one goal (or near goal) from the Columbus Crew‘s previous match.

For the second match of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, we take a look at Pedro Santos’ 99th minute goal that gave the Crew a 1-0 win against Nashville SC as part of their 2-0 Eastern Conference Semi-Final win on Sunday.

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

The Black & Gold took the field against the expansion team following a week of limited contact due to seven positive COVID-19 results within the team. Despite the reduced practice time, the Crew started the match brightly before fading as the first half went on. Nashville led Columbus 8-4 in shots at the half and looked to be the most dangerous side.

After halftime, the Black & Gold found their footing and went on to control most of the second half, holding Nashville to nine more shots for the second half plus extra time while recording 13 of their own. All that was for naught as neither team was able to find the back of the net. Extra time beckoned in at MAPFRE Stadium.

Santos’ game winner begins with a throw-in deep in the Crew’s defensive half.

Milton Valenzuela takes aim for Gyasi Zardes via a long throw.

Zardes jostles for position between Alistair Johnston and Walker Zimmerman as the ball drops in.

Johnston gets a glancing header onto the ball but sends it back toward his own goal.

Lucas Zelarayan waits on Johnston’s glancing header as he shields off Dave Romney.

Zelarayan is able to hold off Romney and take possession of the ball. Zardes will make a run on one side of the No. 10 while Santos makes a parallel run up the sideline.

The Argentine attacker gathers the ball and turns toward the Nashville goal while his teammates continue their runs.

Zimmerman regroups to provide defensive pressure leaving Zelarayan with three options. He can play a pass up the sideline to Santos, attempt to beat Romney and Zimmerman off the dribble or send a pass out in front of Zardes.

Holding off Zimmerman, Zelarayan somehow hits an outside-of-the-right-foot pass around Romney and into the path of Zardes.

Zardes sprints toward the ball while Santos continues his run up the sideline.

The attack is on and the Crew reposition. Zardes will continue his diagonal run toward the sideline and the ball. Santos, seeing Zardes’ run up the sideline, will arc toward the middle of the goal. Luis Diaz heads toward the back post while Darlington Nagbe makes a trailing run to the top and middle of the goal box.

Santos cuts toward the penalty box and Zardes continues his sprint to the ball. Zimmerman’s run forward and subsequent pressure leave ample open space between the defense and goalkeeper Joe Willis.

Zardes reaches the ball and takes a touch to redirect its path into the goal box. Santos continues his run to the middle of the 18-yard box while Diaz shifts toward the back post.

Zardes approaches the ball and has three options. He can play a long cross toward Diaz, a pass on the ground to Santos or carry the ball closer to the goal.

The Columbus striker sees Santos and hits a low, diagonal pass toward the winger.

Zardes’ pass goes right between Romney’s legs on its path toward Santos.

The ball slides right between Dax McCarty and Johnston as Santos approaches.

Santos’ plant foot slides out front under him as he goes to hit a first-touch shot on goal.

The Portuguese is still able to connect, sending the ball toward the post furthest from Willis.

Willis dives too late and the ball rolls under his outstretched arms...

...and into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. At the outset, Johnston is unfortunate that his header sends the ball right to Zelarayan.
  2. Zelarayan’s hold-up play and incredible outside-the-foot pass to Zardes earn the No. 10 a secondary assist on this play. He might not have scored or had a direct assist but Zelarayan played a big role in both of the Black & Gold’s goals.
  3. Santos shows excellent positional awareness by changing up his run. He could have continued up the sideline but instead made a goal-scoring run into the penalty box.
  4. Zardes makes two perfect touches on this ball. His first touch slows the ball and lets him wait for the attack to develop. His second touch is an inch-perfect left-footed pass between Romney’s legs that sets Santos up for a simple shot. Zardes, as always, exhibits some of the best positional awareness in MLS.