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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes completes a dissection of FC Cincinnati

This week, we look at Gyasi Zardes’s team goal against FC Cincinnati in the MLS is Back Tournament.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at FC Cincinnati Kim Klement-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 one of the MLS is Back Tournament and match three of the 2020 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 30th-minute goal against FC Cincinnati that finished off an 18-pass sequence and doubled the Crew’s lead on the way to a 4-0 rout of Cincinnati.

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

The Black & Gold entered the first edition of Hell is Real for the 2020 MLS Season/MLS is Back Tournament with a nearly full-strength lineup. After a rough first 20 minutes, the Crew took control of the match and a lead the teeam would not relinquish when Lucas Zelarayan put an inch perfect free kick into the goal.

Columbus’ next goal came from a brilliant team sequence with eight different players combining for 18 passes before Zardes slotted home the goal.

Zardes’ goal begins with Jonathan Mensah collecting a long clearance from Kendall Waston. Mensah quickly plays the ball back to Eloy Room to begin the possession.

Room then slides a short pass up to Black & Gold Academy product, Aboubacar Keita.

Keita carries the ball a few yards forward before playing the ball forward to Artur.

Artur plays a pass back to Mensah while Mensah and Keita switch sides. At midfield, Darlington Nagbe grabs the attention of three defenders while Harrison Afful provides an outlet on the right flank.

Nagbe steps forward between Siem De Jong and Adrien Regattin, and Mensah finds him with a quick entry pass.

Nagbe doesn’t turn and quickly plays the ball right back to Mensah.

Mensah turns to his left and plays a pass out to Keita as the Crew inch toward midfield.

Keita plays right back to Mensah, resetting the offensive possession.

Nagbe continues to occupy three defenders, allowing Artur to drift toward the right flank and receive a pass from Mensah.

Artur carries the ball forward a few yards as Regattin and De Jong drift away from Nagbe. The midfielder quickly drops the ball back to Mensah.

Mensah slots a pass back to Keita who has space to operate on the left flank.

Keita comfortably carries the ball toward the midfield line and slots a pass toward Nagbe.

Nagbe is pressured by Frankie Amaya so he quickly drops the ball right back to Mensah.

Like before, Mensah finds Artur on the right flank.

Artur carries toward De Jong and has five options: a quick pass up the wing to Afful, a ball straight ahead to Luis Diaz, attempt to beat De Jong off the dribble, a diagonal pass to Nagbe or a drop ball back to Mensah.

Artur finds Afful on the wing, inviting the right back into the passing sequence and moving the ball closer to the FC Cincinnati half.

Artur continues his run forward to open up space for Afful. The fullback cuts back toward his own goal while Nagbe provides a safety valve in the middle of the field.

Under pressure, Afful quickly plays a square pass to Nagbe.

Nagbe receives the ball and is immediately under pressure from Haris Medunjanin. The Columbus midfielder has four options: attempt to beat Medunjanin off the dribble, a pass forward to Artur, a deep drop pass to Mensah or play the ball right back to Afful.

Nagbe turns and is easily able to beat Mendujanin off the dribble. After a long series of passes around the backline, the Black & Gold shift into a much more direct attacking move.

Nagbe’s effortless change of speed is worth looking at in motion.

The Crew, through Nagbe’s efforts, have now taken a direct attacking approach. Nagbe has four options: a long diagonal pass to Diaz, a shorter pass up to Zelarayan, a quick touch pass to Youness Mokhtar or continue to carry the ball forward.

Nagbe slides the ball to Mokhtar who has yards of open space ahead of him.

Mokhtar carries forward as Medunjanin gives chase. His two immediate options are continuing to carry the ball forward or play a perfectly-timed pass up to Zardes.

Mokhtar takes aim at Zardes and plays a pass while his striker is just a few feet onside.

The ball runs right between Columbus-native Saad Abdul-Salaam and Waston as Zardes runs toward the goal with no defenders in front of him.

Zardes picks up the ball at the top of the 18-yard box and has space and time to make his shooting decision.

Przemyslaw Tyton steps forward, forcing Zardes to decide whether to aim for the near post or the far post.

Zardes takes aim at the far post while Tyton seems to be looking for a near post shot.

The ball gets around Tyton and heads . . .

. . . into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. This sequence provides a great look at the possession style that head coach Caleb Porter prefers. The center backs and midfielders played multiple short passes back and forth, pulling FC Cincy out of shape and waiting for the exact right moment to spring the attack. When that moment came, Nagbe recognized the opportunity and sent the team forward.
  2. Nagbe is truly instrumental in this play. He occupies multiple Cincinnati defenders and makes the decisive attacking move.
  3. Mokhtar’s pass had to be both on time and right between two defenders. It did both of those things and sprung Zardes in on goal.
  4. Zardes finished a chance that he might not have in previous seasons. If Zardes is able to maintain this improved finishing touch he could creep toward that 20 goal mark.