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Anatomy of a Goal: Mihailovic gives Fire an early lead vs. the Crew

This week, we look at Djordje Mihailovic’s goal for the Fire that sent the Crew to an early deficit.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Chicago Fire Mike Dinovo-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 11 of the 2020 MLS Season, we take a look at Djordje Mihailovic’s 11th minute goal for Chicago Fire that gave the Fire a 1-0 lead against the Crew on Saturday.

Here’s a look at the goal from Chicago’s young attacker.

Columbus began Saturday’s match against a brand-refreshed version of its old foes with a surprising lineup. Designated Player Lucas Zelarayan missed his second straight match with a slight injury while midfield stalwart Darlington Nagbe was a shock exclusion from the lineup with his own injury. The Black & Gold made do by shifting Pedro Santos into the No. 10 role and gave Fatai Alashe his second straight start beside Artur.

The Fire’s goal begins in the midfield with Alvaro Medran picking up the ball and quickly playing a pass over to Gaston Gimenez.

With Alashe recovering and Santos shifting over to provide pressure, Gimenez pings the ball back out in front of Medran.

Medran has time and space in front of him and heads toward the Crew’s half of the field. On the other side of the field, Harrison Afful spots the Chicago counter attack and sprints back toward his defensive end.

Medran is able to continue forward and the counter attack is on for the Fire. At this point, Columbus has two defenders providing immediate cover in Milton Valenzuela and Artur, two center backs further back who are split by Chicago striker Robert Beric, and Afful attempting to close down on the free-running Mihailovic. Both of the Black & Gold’s wingers have pushed up the field, leaving Medran free to carry the ball forward.

Medran crosses midfield without any resistance. Artur shifts away from Ignacio Aliseda in order to provide some pressure on Medran, leaving the Fire midfielder with five options. He can play a quick diagonal pass to Aliseda, play a long ball over the top to Mihailovic, make a through pass to Beric, carry the ball forward or play a diagonal pass in front of Fabian Herbers.

Medran spots Beric running between the Black & Gold center backs and hits a long through ball into space for his striker to run onto. As Medran hits that pass, Josh Williams shifts away from Beric in an attempt to intercept the pass. If he does pick up the ball, this will allow the Crew to clear out of danger. If he is unable to intercept the pass, it will force captain Jonathan Mensah into the difficult position of defending both Beric’s run as well as any additional runs made to the back post.

On the far side of the field, Mihailovic and Afful are engaged in a foot race down the attacking left flank.

Williams is unable to intercept the pass, leaving Mensah alone to cover both Beric, who is running onto the long through ball, and Mihailovic running back post. Afful is scrambling to recover on the young attacker but is outpaced.

Beric, unpressured, catches up to the ball in the Columbus goal box and immediately has three options before making his first to a quick shot on goal, a cross toward Mihailovic or carry the ball closer to the goal.

Mensah has put himself into the best position he can while knowing that Mihailovic is running free toward the goal. In this no man’s land, Mensah will attempt to get in front of a cross or provide further pressure should Beric decide to take an additional touch on the ball.

Beric reaches the ball and hits a first touch cross toward Mihailovic.

On first glance, it appeared that Mihailovic might have been offside, but from the side angle you can see that he is just a few steps behind Mensah as the ball is crossed toward the back post.

Mensah slides toward the ball but is just unable to get a touch as the ball slides past the captain toward the back post.

Afful is unable to catch up to Mihailovic who will have an uncontested chance on the ball.

Eloy Room shifts toward Mihailovic who hits a first-touch shot toward the goal.

Room is unable to get in front of the ball as it travels past him . . .

. . . into the back of the net.

Findings:

  1. This is first real time that the Black & Gold have been thoroughly dissected for a goal during the 2020 season. If Williams had stayed with Beric, Mensah may have been able to shift toward the back post. Likewise, if Santos had quickly recovered toward Medran he may have been able to free Artur up to continue his defensive run.
  2. Chicago’s passing was excellent here. Medran makes the right decision to send Beric into space, and Beric hits an excellent first touch ball to the back post toward Mihailovic who is able to calmly finish the play. There were many potential slip ups that could have canceled out this goal for the Fire but the home team made simple, accurate passes.
  3. The Crew’s main takeaway is to be vigilant while in possession. The midfield needs to provide more defensive cover during counter attacks and will now have video footage to work from.