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 part two of our goal breakdowns from the 2020 MLS Cup, we take a look at Crew winger Derrick Etienne Jr.’s (22) 31st-minute, one-touch curler that doubled Columbus’ lead against the Seattle Sounders. You can find part one here.
Attacking midfielder Lucas Zelarayan opened the scoring for the Black & Gold in the 25th minute, knocking Seattle off balance and signaling the Crew’s intent to take the game to the Sounders. Every team wants to be up a goal early in a match, but Columbus supporters watching at home and in the stadium feared a defensive slug-fest by a shorthanded Black & Gold. Fortunately, though the Crew ceded the majority of possession to Seattle, Columbus attacked.
Etienne’s goal begins with an Eloy Room clearance.
Room sends a long ball downfield rather than beginning play out of the back.
Yeimar Gomez and striker Gyasi Zardes (11) battle downfield for possession of Room’s clearance.
Gomez wins out and sends a header toward Cristian Roldan.
Roldan flicks Gomez’s headed pass toward midfield where he expects one of Seattle’s attackers to pick up the ball.
Nicolas Lodeiro had pushed up the field leaving midfielder Aidan Morris alone to receive the ball.
The young midfielder, stepping in for Darlington Nagbe, who was declared medically ineligible to play, easily intercepts Roldan’s header as Lodeiro tracks back.
Morris (21) chests the ball forward but is unable to bring it down cleanly. This gives Lodeiro the time and opportunity to jump on the loose ball.
Lodeiro quickly steps in front of Morris’ errant touch and looks to quickly set off on the counter attack.
But Morris is able to recover just as quickly. The teenager calmly muscles Lodeiro off the ball and turns back toward the Sounders’ goal.
Morris takes a step away from Lodeiro and has a number of options available to him. He can play a quick pass forward to winger Luis Diaz, a square or diagonal pass to right back Harrison Affu, a long drop pass to the Black & Gold’s center backs, carry the ball away from Lodeiro or play a touch pass to his midfield partner Artur (8).
Morris sends the ball forward to Afful and the Crew is back in the attack.
If this looks familiar, you may recall that Morris played a similar pass up the sideline to Afful in the build-up to Columbus’ first goal in this match.
Afful has the ball on the right side of the field and has five options. He can play an early cross into Zardes, carry the ball forward, hit an early back-post cross to Etienne, try a through pass to Zelarayan or a touch over to Diaz.
The above image gives us another opportunity to see Caleb Porter’s plan to disrupt Seattle.
The Black & Gold sent in early crosses from the right side during much of the early stages of this match. Zelarayan’s opening goal came from one of these early crosses. These early crosses force the Sounders to engage the central attackers (Zardes and Zelarayan here) further up the field than they typically would and direct that defensive attention to the runs that have already been made in these crosses.
As we can see above, with the left back forced to engage a potential early cross further up the field, the Sounders’ center backs have to shift left. This forces Alex Roldan further left as well and opens up the backside of the Seattle defense for Etienne to make an unmarked run.
Columbus’ strategy to unbalance the field is not a revolutionary one; it’s one of the most common strategies in most sports. What is surprising is that the Sounders were not able to adapt to this straightforward attack. With the game being taken to them, Seattle should have shifted a central midfielder back toward the center backs and also instructed right winger Joevin Jones to drop further back on defense. Neither of these things happened and the Black & Gold were able to exploit the many yards of space they created by overwhelming one side of the field and quickly switching play.
Afful looks to Zardes and hits an early cross toward the striker. With Shane O’Neill shifted toward the sideline and Gomez marking Zardes’ front, Roldan marks the striker’s back side. With Jones pushed far up the field Etienne is free to run toward the back-post.
It appears that Afful’s cross is deflected, sending the ball far short of Zardes.
O’Neill has to react to the ball dropping to him at an awkward height. With Zelarayan at the top of the penalty arc, O’Neill likely had time settling this ball. Instead, he attempts a low headed clearance but sends the ball right to Zelarayan.
Roldan sticks with Zardes while Etienne steps toward the 18-yard box. Jones still trails the play.
Zelarayan chests down O’Neill’s attempted clearance and Etienne waits for a pass.
The ball bounces in front of Zelarayan who has four options He can play a quick through pass to Diaz, take a shot on goal, carry the ball forward or play a diagonal pass to Etienne.
Zelarayan fakes a shot on goal and draws a reaction from Gomez. He then takes a touch toward the middle of the penalty box as Etienne stands ready to receive a pass.
Zelarayan feels the Seattle defensive pressure and must either shoot or play a quick pass to Etienne.
The Crew’s No. 10 quickly hits a pass toward the winger.
Etienne prepares to receive the ball and can either hit a first-touch shot on goal or take a touch toward the goal.
Etienne hits a low, curling shot toward the far post. Roldan lunges forward but the ball rolls just under his legs.
Stefan Frei takes aim at Etienne’s shot as it enters the goal box.
Frei is able to dive toward the ball . . .
. . . but it curls around his fingers . . .
. . . into the back of the net!
- As with the previous goal, Morris plays a key role in winning a ball for Columbus. The young midfielder is dispossessed by Lodeiro but almost immediately wins the ball back and sends a pass to Afful in position to attack.
- The Black & Gold did not have a revolutionary game plan, they had an effective game plan. The Crew overloaded the right attacking side and quickly switched the field of play to the tune of two first-half goals.
- Zelarayan is the key to this play. He holds up his run into the 18-yard box, which allows him to pick up a ball that doesn’t make it to Zardes. His fake shot buys enough time for him to spot Etienne for the assist.
- Etienne’s shot is inch perfect. The young winger hits a shot on the ground with an impossible-seeming amount of spin. The moment was not too big for Derrick Etienne.