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 11 of the 2021 MLS season, the first match in the brand new Lower.com Field, we take a look at the first goal scored by a Crew player in the new stadium, Gyasi Zardes’ 39th minute goal that cut the New England Revolution’s lead in half and set Columbus on the path to a 2-2 draw.
The Nordecke-led crowd pushed the Crew forward during the first 10 minutes of Saturday’s Lower.com Field-opening match. Winger Luis Diaz had an excellent chance in the first few minutes of the match and fullback Harrison Afful had a move reminiscent of his Halloween 2017 goal, but neither were able to open the scoring. Instead, New England, who was happy to defend in a low block and counter attack, scored two goals against the run of play to send Columbus to an early and disappointing deficit.
Zardes’ goal begins with a Back & Gold goal kick following a Tommy McNamara dive in the penalty box. We pick up with the ball at captain Jonathan Mensah’s feet.
Mensah has nearly 20 yards of open space ahead of him and opts to play a quick square pass to fellow center back Vito Wormgoor.
Wormgoor surveys the field and quickly plays the ball right back to Mensah.
Mensah, still not under pressure, plays the ball out to Darlington Nagbe.
From the kickoff, the Revolution was happy to let the Crew possess the ball around the backline and midfield. New England only pressed the backline a few times in this match, most coming in the second half, and clearly planned to rely on quick, overloaded, counter attacks up the right (Columbus’ left) flank. This plan worked out well in the first half but did give the Black & Gold plenty of time on the ball.
With the Revolution hanging back, the Crew shifted the team’s outside backs far up the field. The goal of this wide positioning is to either shift defenders wide and open up passing lanes in the middle of the field or, if the defenders stay clustered centrally, to offer play-switching passes that will disrupt the defensive setup.
Nagbe carries the ball toward McNamara and the midfield line and surveys his options. Columbus’ No. 6 has four passing options, a quick touch forward to Marlon Hairston,a long, play-switching, pass to Milton Valenzuela, a diagonal pass back to Wormgoor or a drop pass to Mensah.
Nagbe opts for the safe option and drops the ball back to Wormgoor.
Wormgoor, still with space, surveys his four passing options of his own. He can play a touch forward to Nagbe, a play-switching pass to Afful who is pushed far up the right flank, a quick pass to Hairston or a square pass to Mensah.
Wormgoor takes the play-switching opportunity and hits a perfect long pass to Afful.
Afful easily collects the long pass and sets the Black & Gold’s attack in motion.
The Crew’s right back takes a few touches forward and can either play a pass around DeJuan Jones into the path of Diaz, attempt to beat Jones off the dribble or a long pass on the ground toward Zardes.
Afful sees Zardes angling his run parallel to the goal and hits a long pass toward the striker.
Zardes prepares to receive the ball by using his arm to hold off center back Andrew Farrell, creating some space to work in.
The move pays off, allowing Zardes to pick up the ball without immediate pressure on his back.
Zardes then uses Pedro Santos as a sort of screen, shielding off both Farrell and Brandon Bye. Additionally, by carrying the ball to his left, Zardes shifts Turner’s positioning. With Turner near his line, this shift opens up space to the far post for a difficult shot.
Zardes plants his feet and whips a shot toward space that Turner has vacated.
Turner dives toward the ball but is unable to reach it as it travels by his hand...
...into the back of the net!
- New England’s defensive setup gave Columbus a lot of time on the ball but limited options further down the field. The Black & Gold countered this by switching the field and attempting to scramble the Revolution defense.
- Wormgoor did not have his best game for the Crew but did hit an inch-perfect long pass to Afful.
- Zardes’ work on this goal shows just how good his movement and field vision are. He runs parallel to the goal, creates space with a slight stiff-arm of Farrell, uses Santos as a screen, drags Turner’s focus from the far post and nails a tight shot into the goal.