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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes closes historic Crew Stadium

This week we look at Gyasi Zardes’s 34th minute goal, the final MLS goal at historic Columbus Crew Stadium.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

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

For match eight of the 2021 MLS season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 34th minute goal, the final MLS goal scored at historic Crew Stadium, which gave Columbus a 2-0 lead as part of the team’s era-closing win against the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Here is a look at the goal from the Black & Gold’s striker.

The Crew returned from a long international break to play one final match at historic Crew Stadium before a permanent move a few miles south to Lower.com Field. A full stadium and a boisterous Nordecke joined the team in closing out the historic Crew Stadium era and were quickly rewarded with a 17th minute goal by Zardes. Columbus stayed on the front foot for the rest of the first half, pushing for a second goal to send the fans home with yet another Dos a Cero win.

Zardes’ goal begins with a short free kick won by fill-in left back Pedro Santos. The ball is played quickly and makes its way over to Jonathan Mensah.

Mensah receives the ball and lifts his head up to survey the field. The captain has six options. He can play a quick pass forward to Darlington Nagbe, a long through pass to Zardes, a lofted pass over the Fire defense to Derrick Etienne Jr., a needle-threading pass across the midfield line to Lucas Zelarayan, carry the ball forward or a pass out to Harrison Afful on the right sideline.

As the Black & Gold have often done, Mensah opts for a direct attacking pass over the top to Etienne.

In what appears to be a recurring theme for Crew goals this season, Mensah’s pass to Etienne is very close to an offside call. Unlike last match’s offside call on Zardes’ goal, which was overturned and deemed onside by VAR, the assistant referee did not raise his flag for offside. So, when VAR looks at this play, the official would have to determine that the call on the field is a clear and obvious error.

From the angle above it appears that Etienne is just behind the grass line on the field while Chicago center back Carlos Teran has his foot on the line keeping Etienne onside. Etienne may have been leaning his body across the line held by Teran but that is unclear. VAR agrees and the call on the field stands.

Etienne did a perfect job of angling his run sideways to stay onside before taking off downfield. Zardes grabbed the attention of Teran and right back Boris Sekulic, which creates additional space between the center back paring of Teran and Francisco Calvo. Etienne sees this space and runs into the channel between the center backs. Once Mensah hits his lofted pass down the field it’s easy for Etienne to outpace both center backs to the ball.

Etienne doesn’t let the ball bounce and brings it down right outside the 18-yard box. Zardes has also beaten the Fire defense and trails just behind Etienne.

Chicago goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth comes out to cut off Etienne’s angle leaving the winger with three options. He can attempt to beat Shuttleworth off the dribble, hit a quick shot on goal over Shuttleworth or play a simple touch pass to Zardes.

Etienne makes the safest decision and plays a quick pass over to the trailing Zardes as Shuttleworth slides toward the ball.

Zardes picks up the ball as Chicago realizes a goal is inevitable.

Zardes tied Jeff Cunningham’s mark for second-place in goals at historic Crew Stadium earlier in the match and looks to claim the No. 2 spot, behind Federico Higuain, for himself with a simple shot toward the goal...

...and into the back of the net! This goal puts Zardes second in the record books with 32 goals at historic Crew Stadium and is the final MLS goal scored at the venue.

Findings:

  1. This goal is made by Etienne’s inch-perfect run and Mensah’s perfectly-timed pass. A half second or half inch difference and Etienne is offside.
  2. Etienne likely could have beaten Shuttleworth by himself but made the safe, unselfish decision to set Zardes up for an easy tap-in.
  3. Zardes’ movement is once again excellent. He occupies Chicago’s right and center backs creating a channel for Etienne to run into. He then maintains his run down the field but stays just a few feet behind Etienne to stay onside.
  4. Zardes deservedly sits near the top of the record books in goals scored at historic Crew Stadium. With every goal, he climbs further up the Crew all-time scoring list.