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Anatomy of a Goal: Zardes scores his 50th

This week we look at Gyasi Zardes’ 50th goal with the Crew.

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 seven of the 2021 MLS season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 21st minute goal, his 50th across all competitions for the Crew, that gave Columbus a 2-0 lead as part of the team’s 2-1 win against Toronto FC on Saturday.

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

The Crew returned to Columbus on the back of the team’s first road win in more than a year and looking to grab a second straight win before a three-week break. Luis Diaz got the scoring started early with a long breakaway goal. The Black & Gold continued to apply pressure to their Trillium Cup rivals as the first half moved forward.

Zardes’ goal begins with a Toronto throw-in deep in Crew territory. Kamar Lawrence throws the ball in toward Marky Delgado.

Delgado collects the ball and plays a quick pass forward to Jacob Shaffelburg.

Shaffelburg plays a first-touch pass toward Michael Bradley but Artur looks to pounce on the pass.

Shaffelburg under-hits his pass allowing Artur to easily intercept the ball. Darlington Nagbe and Derrick Etienne (22) see the counter-attacking opportunity and set off toward the attacking half.

Artur brings in the ball and has options. He can attempt to carry the ball forward around Bradley, play a pass around Bradley to Zardes or play a quick touch-pass forward to Nagbe.

Artur spots Nagbe and plays a quick pass out in front of his midfield partner.

Nagbe carries the ball forward as Richie Laryea (22) shifts toward him to apply defensive pressure. This leaves Nagbe with three options, a through pass toward Zardes, continuing to carry the ball forward or a diagonal pass out in front of Etienne.

Nagbe plays a pass in front of Etienne who has time to run onto the ball.

Etienne picks up the ball with space to carry forward across the midfield line.

Columbus’ counter attack springs into motion as Etienne crosses midfield. Zardes runs just behind Chris Mavinga, Nagbe makes an unmarked run forward toward Eriq Zavaleta, and Pedro Santos sets up an overlapping run around Etienne.

Laryea gets in front of Etienne leaving the winger with four options. He can either play a quick pass forward to Nagbe, a long, diagonal pass to Zardes attempt to beat Laryea off the dribble or hit a leading pass in front of Santos.

Etienne picks the safest option and plays a quick pass into the path of the overlapping Santos.

Santos approaches the ball and can either hit an early cross into the oenalty box toward Zardes, play a pass on the ground toward Nagbe or take a touch toward the endline.

Santos decides to hit an early cross into the path of Zardes.

The above image shows one of a few frames that could be used by the Video Assistant Referee to review this play for a potential offside run by Zardes. From this angle, it is difficult to tell whether Zardes’ lead foot is ahead of Zavaleta’s knee. After initially being called offside, the VAR intructed the center official to take a second look. From this angle, it was clear and obvious enough that Zardes was onside and the goal was given.

The ball travels toward Zardes in the 18-yard box. The forward makes a smart run from the opposite flank and positions himself between Mavinga and the ball.

Mavinga and Zardes both get their legs out toward the ball as it approaches them in the penalty box.

Zardes just beats Mavinga to the ball and sends the ball on a downward trajectory toward the goal.

Zardes’ redirected shot takes a hard bounce on the ground a few feet in front of the striker.

The ball takes a high bounce and picks up some significant spin as it soars toward Alex Bono’s goal.

Bono leaps toward the ball and attempts to redirect the shot away from the goal. But Bono is just unable to get his fingertips on the ball as it soars over him...

. . . into the back of the net!


  1. Both Crew goals in this match came from counter attacks. Caleb Porter and his coaching staff clearly identified a weak point in Toronto’s high-pressure system and Columbus did well to make the opponent pay on two separate occasions.
  2. The early decisions in this counter attack are good examples of quick, simple choices Artur plays a short pass to Nagbe, Nagbe plays a simple pass in front of Etienne and Etienne recognizes Santos’ overlap.
  3. Santos hits an almost perfect early cross. This ball into the penalty box has become a staple of the Black & Gold’s attack over the past season.
  4. This is a good example of MLS VAR being used correctly. In the English Premier League, this play would have been reviewed by the millimeter. In MLS, a naked eye review overturns the call to give Columbus an important goal.
  5. Zardes does an excellent job to redirect the ball toward the goal. With his 50th goal in all competitions, Zardes continues to climb toward the ranks of all-time Crew goal scorers.