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Anatomy of a Goal: Zelarayan’s nod gives the Crew a lead

This week we look at Lucas Zelarayan’s diving header that gave the Crew an early lead against Minnesota.

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 13 of the 2020 MLS Season, we take a look at Lucas Zelarayan’s 31st minute diving header that gave the Crew a 1-0 lead as part of the team’s 2-1 win against Minnesota United on Wednesday.

Here’s a look at the spectacular goal from Columbus’s number 10.

The Black & Gold lined up against Minnesota with a nearly first-choice lineup, with only Darlington Nagbe missing. The Crew spent much of the first half on the attack, looking to break down a typically stout Loons defense.

Columbus’s first goal of the gaame begins with the ball at the feet of Eloy Room. Room and the Black & Gold defense stifled a Minnesota United attack, allowing the Crew keeper to calmly slide a pass over to Jonathan Mensah to begin the attack.

Mensah takes the ball out wide and plays a quick pass forward to Sebastian Berhalter who entered the match in the 19th minute following a Fatai Alashe injury.

Berhalter is a key cog in this attack and does an excellent job of linking the backline to the attacking group.

Berhalter carries the ball toward the midfield before playing a quick pass up the right flank to Harrison Afful.

Afful takes the ball across the midfield until he is met with pressure from the Minnesota defense. He then turns and drops the ball back to Berhalter.

Berhalter carries the ball toward the center of the field before playing a drop pass to his midfield partner, Artur.

Artur has set up between the center backs and will help dictate the play from the backline. The Brazilian midfielder is not met with any sort of Loon press and quickly switches the ball to the left side to Josh Williams.

Williams carries toward the midfield stripe where he spots Minnesota United’s Emanuel Reynoso. The center back turns toward the middle of the field and has three options: a long diagonal pass up to Berhalter, a dangerous field switch to Mensah with former Crew striker Kei Kamara waiting to pounce on any errant pass or a drop back to Artur.

Williams makes the safe play and drops the ball back to Artur.

Berhalter drops into the space between the Minnesota front line and midfield as Artur plays an entry pass to the young midfielder.

The defense turns to look to Berhalter who hits a first-touch pass right back to Artur.

Artur surveys his options and spots Afful standing alone on the far touch line. He hits an inch-perfect pass to the Columbus right back.

Afful prepares to receive Artur’s long-field switch. At the same time, Zelarayan opens himself up to receive a quick pass from the Ghanian right back.

The Black & Gold have deployed these long, cross-field passes with more and more success as the season has progressed. By quickly switching the field, the Crew can unsettle the opposing defense, often causing the opponent to over commit defenders to the side where the ball was switched.

Afful calmly settles Artur’s long pass and plays a quick pass to Zelarayan.

Columbus’ No. 10 is met with defensive pressure and can either play a pass forward to Luis Diaz, drop a pass back to Afful or play a pass to Berhalter.

Zelarayan finds Afful as Berhalter drops behind the Columbus right back to provide additional support.

Afful turns and touches the ball over to Berhalter.

Berhalter then turns and drops the ball right back to Artur. Notice how high both Artur and Williams have been able to push up the field. The Loons are content to sit back and defend so the Black & Gold respond by pushing defenders further up the field.

Artur receives Berhalter’s pass and quickly plays the ball over to Williams, who has no defenders within about 20 yards of him. Minnesota United has seven defenders just in this screenshot, all of whom are pushed to the far right side of the Crew’s attack. Milton Valenzuela has pushed far forward on the left side, just out of frame, which occupies a Minnesota defender and gives Williams dozens of yards of empty space to move into.

Williams quickly carries the ball forward into the open space that Columbus has created with multiple switches of the field. Pedro Santos cuts toward Williams in an effort to drag defenders away from Gyasi Zardes and to provide a passing option.

Jose Aja has an eye on both Santos and Zardes. Michael Boxall also cuts toward Zardes which allows Zelarayan to run, un-marked, behind the Loons’ center back.

Williams lifts his head and has four options. He can play a pass up the sideline to Valenzuela, continue to carry the ball forward, play a quick touch pass to Santos, hit a tough ball over the top to Valenzuela.

Aja is still stuck between Zardes and Santos. If he goes to mark Santos, he will leave Zardes offside but with only Boxall defending on his backside. If he stays with Zardes, Santos will have time and space to continue the Black & Gold’s attack.

Aja stays put and Williams quickly plays the ball up to Santos. Valenzuela runs right toward the United 18-yard box.

Santos turns the ball toward the goal and immediately has four options: a long pass up the left sideline to Valenzuela, carrying the ball forward, a through pass to Zardes or a lofted ball to the penalty box into the path of Zelarayan.

Santos spots Zelarayan and lofts a left-footed cross into the path of his teammate.

Aja and Boxall have both marked Zardes, giving Zelarayan the time and space to run into the 18-yard box with only a defender on his back hip. Zardes doesn’t touch the ball on this play but his presence frees up Zelarayan’s run.

The ball is just a bit ahead as Zelarayan lunges forward.

The Argentine attacker dives toward the ball, sending a headed shot on goal.

Dayne St. Clair can only watch as the ball zooms past him...

...into the back of the net!


  1. This is yet another brilliant team goal from the Crew. From Room to the back of Minnesota’s net, eight Columbus players combine for 17 passes.
  2. Credit to the Black & Gold coaching staff for putting together a game plan that allowed the team to slice through a United side that was comfortable putting all 11 Loons behind the ball. The coaching staff has clearly developed a strategy to spread out and exploit the space of teams who thought they’d figured out how to grind out a result against the Crew.
  3. Berhalter and Artur provided excellent link-up play during this goal and helped drag the Minnesota defense over to the right half of the field.
  4. Santos had his best game of the season as well as his best match with Zelarayan. The Portuguese attacker has at times struggled to adapt to his role with a new No. 10 pulling the strings and he seems to have found that role as an additional attacker with the freedom to cut inside and dribble at opposing defenders.
  5. Zelarayan once again shows that he was worth every penny of his club record transfer price.