Welcome to the Anatomy of a Goal, where each week we dissect one goal (or near goal) from a previous Columbus Crew match.
For match 29 of the 2021 MLS season, we take a look at Pedro Santos’ 44th minute goal that doubled the Crew’s lead and set the team on track for a crucial 4-0 home win against Inter Miami CF that keeps MLS Cup playoff dream alive in Columbus.
The Crew returned from the international break with six matches, four at Lower.com Field, left to pick up points and secure a playoff spot. Miami found itself in a similar position after cooling off from a brief foray above the playoff line. With Milton Valenzuela fully back in the lineup and looking like the left back of seasons past, Santos returned to his role on the wing and looked to inject a much-needed dose of goals into the Black & Gold attack.
Santos’ goal begins with an Inter Miami throw-in. Leandro Golzalez Pirez lobs a long throw to the feat of Gonzalo Higuain.
Higuain prepares to received the ball but is unaware that Darlington Nagbe is sprinting toward him to provide defensive pressure.
Higuain’s first touch is sloppy and spills the ball out in front of him, back toward the Miami goal.
Nagbe steps to the ball, as Higuain provides no resistance, and sets off toward the goal on a deep counter attack.
Nagbe continues forward with the Crew attack in force. By picking up the ball deep in Miami territory, and certainly due in some part to the lack of effort by the Inter midfield, Columbus has a five-on-three attack at the goal.
On the left, Derrick Etienne Jr. provides an option up the flank. Gyasi Zardes runs toward goal, offering the option for a quick through pass, while Lucas Zelarayan makes an overlapping run toward the center of the goal box. Santos sprints forward on the far side, totally unmarked aside from Blaise Matuidi scrambling to recover.
The attack carries on as Nagbe nears the top of the goal box. Miami’s defense is still struggling to recover, leaving both Etienne and Santos wide open on the flanks of the attack.
As Nagbe enters the goal box, Kelvin Leerdam steps to the Akron alum, leaving Zardes to Christian Makoun. Higuain occupies a potential passing window but does not provide an defensive pressure.
Defensive pressure mounts, leaving Nagbe with five options. He can play a touch pass up the flank to Etienne, try a through pass to Zardes, hit a shot on goal, pass across the penalty box to a wide-open Santos or play a soft pass into the path of Zelarayan.
Nagbe spots Santos’ unmarked run and plays a simple pass toward the Portuguese winger.
Santos prepares to receive the ball but must be efficient with his first touch. The veteran winger can either take a quick shot on goal, take a touch around Makoun or play a pass back across the box to Zardes.
Santos tees up a shot and hits the ball on goal with his first touch.
Nick Marsman has little time to react and can only throw up a hand as the ball sails to his right...
...and into the back of the net!
- Sitting on the outside of the playoffs looking in, Columbus needs to make the most of every single home match. The Black & Gold did just that on Saturday, making quick and easy work of a listless Miami team. With Santos back on the wing, and the team playing with urgency, there is a real, if difficult, chance for this team to eke into the MLS Cup playoffs if it can avoid a Philadelphia-esque letdown from the previous match.
- Nagbe’s pressure on this goal is excellent. He knows that Higuain is unaware of his presence and is easily able to dispossess the Argentine striker.
- The offensive movement on this goal is another high point. Two flank runners provide width while both Zardes and Zelarayan make complimentary runs to both occupy defenders and provide passing options.
- Nagbe is once again selfless in his pass to Santos. He could have taken a shot himself but a pass was the right choice here.
- Santos does well to both put himself into position to score and actually putting the ball past Marsman.