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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes silences Nashville SC

This week we look at yet another Gyasi Zardes goal, this one clinching a win on Saturday against Nashville.

MLS: Nashville SC at Columbus Crew SC Joseph Maiorana-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 12 of the 2020 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 93rd minute goal that clinched a win against Nashville SC on Saturday.

Here’s a look at yet another goal from the Crew’s striker.

Columbus began Saturday’s match against Nashville with Darlington Nagbe out of the lineup and Lucas Zelarayan making a return to the team but starting out on the bench. After a testy but otherwise uneventful first half, Pedro Santos opened up scoring with a top-shelf goal from a Zardes steal and assist.

Zardes’ game-icing goal begins with Dax McCarty on the ball at midfield. McCarty and Nashville are looking for a stoppage-time equalizer. The Nashville captain is flanked by Daniel Lovitz on his left and Dave Romney on his right. Further up the field is attacking player Daniel Rios.

McCarty opts for the long ball into the Black & Gold’s attacking area, and launches a long ball toward Rios.

Rios battles with Crew captain Jonathan Mensah as McCarty’s lofted ball approaches.

Mensah wins the physical battle and heads the ball back toward the midfield.

Zelarayan, making his return from a two-match injury layoff, waits near the midfield stripe and prepares to receive Mensah’s clearance.

The Columbus number 10 easily receives the ball and turns toward the midfield. At this point, he sees that McCarty, Lovitz and Romney are the only Nashville defenders back on defense. Zardes begins his run just ahead while Artur and Derrick Etienne make supporting runs up the right and left flanks.

Zelarayan crosses midfield as the Black & Gold counter- ttack takes shape. Lovitz sprints back toward his defensive line and Zardes, leaving Zelarayan with no defensive pressure. Artur shifts his run up Zelarayan’s right side while Etienne continues up the left flank.

All three Nashville defenders have honed in on Zardes as the ball enters their defensive third. With all three defenders stepping to Zardes, the Crew midfield spreads out to both create additional space and to potentially force a Nashville defender off of Zardes.

Zelarayan dribbles toward the 18-yard line and the Nashville defense is now forced to shift defensive pressure away from Zardes. Romney slides toward Etienne while McCarty steps toward Zelarayan to stop the ball. Artur is still free to run behind Romney, who is focused on marking Zardes.

The Argentine attacker approaches McCarty’s pressure and now must decide which of four options to take. He can pllay a pass up the left sideline to Etienne, attempt to beat McCarty off the dribble, play a through pass to Zardes or attempt a through ball to Artur.

Zelarayan spots Artur and hits a through ball toward him into the Nashville goal box.

Artur lets the ball carry into the box as the Nashville defense shifts to recover.

The Brazilian midfielder prepares to make his first touch on the ball and can either play a quick shot on goal, pass to Zardes or play a ball back toward Zelarayan.

Artur spots Zardes and hits a first touch pass toward his striker.

From the TV angle, it is difficult to determine whether Zardes is onside or offside on Artur’s pass. Luckily, we have the side angle on this play. From this point of view it appears that Romney, or at the very least Romney’s left foot, is just keeping Zardes onside, and VAR agrees.

Zardes continues his run forward and it appears that Artur’s pass is just a bit behind the striker. Fortunately, Zardes has a trick up his sleeve.

Rather than let the ball slide past him, Zardes puts a clever back-heel flick onto the ball. Let’s take a look at the flick in action.

Romney isn’t totally bodying up Zardes, allowing the striker to get his trailing right foot onto the ball.

Zardes could either attempt to turn on the ball or flick it behind him, and up a goal with just over one minute to go in the match, he gives it a shot with the back heel. The ball misses Romney’s feet as it travels toward the back post . . .

. . . and into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. Mensah fights off Rios to clear the ball up the field to the Black & Gold’s creative engine, Zelarayan.
  2. The Crew run an excellent counter attack on this play. Zelarayan carries the ball until he’s forced to make a decision while Etienne and Artur set up wide to either draw away defenders or to provide an open outlet option.
  3. Artur’s first touch pass to Zardes, though a few inches behind the striker, was a great cap to a very good match for Artur. In the two games without Nagbe, Artur has had to step up to fill part of Nagbe’s role and the young Brazilian has more than adequately met that challenge.
  4. Zardes continues his excellent season with yet another great goal.