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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes kicks off the Champions League in Style

This week, we look at Gyasi Zardes’s game-opening goal against Real Esteli in the CONCACAF Champions League

Photo courtesy of Columbus Crew SC

Welcome to the Anatomy of a Goal, where each week we dissect one goal (or near goal) from a previous Columbus Crew match.

For the first three matches of the Crew’s 2021 season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 19th minute goal that gave Columbus a 1-0 lead against Real Esteli and set the team on its way to a 4-0 road leg win.

Here’s a look at the goal from Zardes.

The Black & Gold returned to the CONCACAF Champions League two weeks ago after a 10-year hiatus, traveling to Managua, Nicaragua to face off against the qualifiers from Liga Primera de Nicaragua, Real Esteli. The Crew put out a near full-strength lineup in the team’s first competitive match of 2021 and came out with a clear intent to secure a victory in the away leg.

Zardes’ goal begins with a long clearance by Esteli center back Josue Quijano (27). Real Esteli shift two attackers toward Milton Valenzuela (19) to attempt an overload on the right side.

Valenzuela wins the ball from the two Esteli attackers and plays a quick, short pass forward to Aidan Morris (21).

Morris senses the pressure behind him and quickly plays a diagonal pass to his midfield partner Darlington Nagbe (6).

Nagbe picks up Morris’ pass in an empty pocket and is able to turn toward midfield and carry the ball forward.

Nagbe nears the midfield circle and has five options. He can play a diagonal pass up the line to Pedro Santos (7), try a difficult long ball over the defense to Zardes (11), hit a direct pass forward to Lucas Zelarayan (10) who has found a pocket of space between the Esteli defense and midfield, carry the ball forward or play a long diagonal pass to Luis Diaz (12).

The Crew midfielder spots Zelarayan and hits a quick pass forward to his No. 10.

Zelarayan immediately turns the ball and sets off toward the Real goal. Santos continues his run up the sideline while Zardes and Diaz continue their runs against the Esteli center backs.

Zelarayan approaches defensive pressure and can either play a through pass in front of Zardes, a pass behind center back Oscar Acevedo in front of Diaz or carry the ball forward.

The Argentine opts to play a difficult pass in behind Acevedo to the speedy Diaz. Zardes cuts his run inside of Quijano to put himself between his defender and the ball.

Zelarayan’s pass does not have enough pace and is picked off by Acevedo. Zardes continues forward between Quijano and Acevedo.

Acevedo redirects the ball toward the center of the goal box away from Diaz. Quijano and Zardes continue their race to the goal box.

Acevedo’s first touch is either just too heavy or too weak of a pass to Quijano. Zardes continues toward the ball applying a counter-press, quick defensive pressure after a turnover, following the Black & Gold losing possession.

Zardes is able to beat the Esteli center backs to the ball and uses his left foot to redirect the ball away from Acevedo and into space.

The Crew striker composes himself and has three options. He can take a shot on goal, take another touch forward or play a quick pass to Diaz.

Zardes eyes the far post and hits a low shot on goal.

The shot sends Real Esteli’s keeper, Alvaro Rezzano, into an awkward slide with Quijano lunging toward the space behind his goalkeeper.

The shot just beats Rezzano leaving only Quijano as the last defender before the goal.

Quijano isn’t able to get a touch on the ball and can only watch as it rolls past him . . .

. . . into the back of the net!


  1. After multiple chances to score in the first few minutes, the game settled down. Valenzuela did well to win the ball from two Esteli players and send a quick pass to Morris.
  2. Nagbe once again lets the ball do the work for him, linking up with Zelarayan rather than carrying the ball forward.
  3. Zelarayan’s pass was too slow but showed Columbus’ intent to send runners in behind the REal defense. Diaz was dangerous on that wing all night.
  4. Zardes once again does all of the little things right. He puts himself between his defender and the ball, he immediately counter-presses on the turnover and he hits an inch-perfect shot to the back post for the goal.