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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes scores his first in 2020

This week we look at Gyasi Zardes’s finish of an excellent team goal.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Seattle Sounders FC Jennifer Buchanan-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 two of the 2020 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 33rd minute goal that gave the Crew an early lead during Saturday’s 1-1 draw with the Seattle Sounders.

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

The Black & Gold took their first road trip of the 2020 season to Seattle to face a Sounders team missing attacking linchpin Nico Lodeiro and a city in unease following multiple cases of COVID-19. Following a week of wondering whether this match would be played in an empty stadium, in a different location or postponed, both teams took field late on Saturday to play in front of the boisterous Emerald City Supporters.

Zardes’ goal caps off a defensive to offensive transition by the Crew. In total, 13 passes take Columbus from the defensive end to the back of Seattle’s net with seven different players touching the ball. This quick transition from defense to attack features very few backward passes and exemplifies the way Caleb Porter wants this team to possess the ball.

The Black & Gold’s goal begins with the Sounders attacking up their left flank, with Joevin Jones playing a pass up to Jordan Morris.

Harrison Afful gets a step on Morris and is able to intercept the pass.

Afful turns the ball back toward the Crew goal and quickly makes a pass to Jonathan Mensah. Artur surveys the field and drops a few yards closer to Jonathan.

Jonathan quickly plays the ball back up to Artur who has found an open pocket in the Seattle defense.

Artur turns and carries the ball forward until he is meet by fellow Brazilian Joao Paulo. He then quickly slides a pass over to Luis Diaz. Darlington Nagbe drifts toward Diaz to provide a quick outlet from Jones’s pressure.

Diaz immediately plays a first-touch pass to Nagbe with Miguel Ibarra providing pressure right behind Nagbe.

Nagbe makes a deft move to beat Ibarra and set the offense heading up the field. Sensing Ibarra’s pressure, Nagbe waits for the ball rather than heading to meet the ball. As he waits, Nagbe puts his body between Ibarra and the ball, walling off the Seattle attacker’s angle. Nagbe lets the ball bounce right by him as it arrives, letting the ball send itself into the space ahead of him and leaving Ibarra behind.

With Ibarra on the wrong side of the ball, Nagbe heads up the field.

The Columbus midfielder crosses midfield and has four options. He can play a quick diagonal pass out to Pedro Santos, continue to carry the ball forward, attempt a tough through pass to Lucas Zelarayan or play a quick drop to Artur.

Nagbe carries the ball a few yards further before quickly sliding a pass over to Santos.

Santos carries the ball toward the Sounders defensive pressure and finds himself with four options. He can send the ball toward Milton Valenzuela on the touchline, attempt to beat Gustav Svennson off the dribble, play a square a pass to Zelarayan or drop the ball back to Nagbe.

Santos pulls off a clever Cruyff turn and cuts back toward Zelarayan.

With Santos’ turn, he enters a passing triangle with Zelarayan and Nagbe. Artur and Valenzuela both offer alternative passing options outside the triangle. Santos taps the ball over to Zelarayan.

Santos continues his run after passing the ball, pulling Svennson with him and opening up space for Zelarayan to operate. Zelarayan plays a quick pass back to Nabge and cuts toward Valenzuela, where he expects Nagbe to pass the ball.

Nagbe does play a quick pass to Valenzuela as Zelarayan moves to provide support.

Valenzuela stands over the ball as the Black & Gold offense resets.

Zelarayan gives Valenzuela a passing option and the left back obliges by sending him the ball.

Zelarayan carries the ball toward Ibarra and has three options: a quick pass back to Valenzuela, attempt to beat Ibarra off the dribble or a square pass to Artur.

Zelarayan makes a quick move and heads around Ibarra with Artur open as a safety valve.

Having beaten Ibarra, Zelarayan heads up the field as Paulo moves to provide defensive cover. Artur opens himself further by moving toward the middle of the field.

Paulo steps to Zelarayan who quickly pokes the ball toward Artur. Diaz waits on the far side of the field with Seattle’s Morris stuck in no-man’s-land between Diaz and Artur.

Artur heads toward the ball as Morris sprints toward him. Morris’ defensive move leaves Diaz open on the far side of the goal box.

Artur takes one touch, evaluates the field and slots a perfect pass to Diaz on the right.

Diaz slides the ball forward with his first touch and must decide whether to send a cross into the penalty box or carry the ball closer to the goal.

Diaz sees Zardes cutting toward the goal and uses his first touch to send in a cross.

It appears that Zardes is just onside as Diaz whips in his cross.

Zardes has a good angle to the ball if it skips through the Sounders’ defense.

The ball skips through and Zardes stretches his off foot toward the ball as Stefan Frei dives in anticipation of a shot.

Zardes’ first-touch shot sails over Frei . . .

. . . and into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. This goal is an example of how Caleb Porter expects the team to play. Rather than the slow, building possession used in previous years, the Crew play directly, using short passes to move forward and firing in an incisive cross.
  2. Nagbe is again an important part of a goal despite not showing up on the stat sheet. He easily beats Ibarra with a clever shield of the ball and sets off toward the offensive end. The deft midfielder then acts as a drop option and sends the ball forward whenever possible.
  3. Santos does a great job to free himself and take defenders with him, giving Zelarayan time and space to operate.
  4. Zelarayan’s move around Ibarra and pass to Artur are crucial in pulling the Seattle defense away from Diaz. Likewise, Artur quickly finds Diaz with a decisive second-touch pass.
  5. Diaz’s cross to Zardes is inch perfect, displaying his ability to beat teams with pace and with excellent passing.
  6. Zardes’ finish is not to be taken for granted. The striker times his run perfectly and brilliantly hits a one-touch shot with his off-foot. In this instance he makes a difficult play look simple by burying a goal.