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Anatomy of a Goal: Gonzalo Higuain punishes the Crew

This week we look at Gonzalo Higuain’s game-winning goal agains the Crew.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Inter Miami CF Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

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

For match 24 of the 2021 MLS Season, we take a look at Gonzalo Higuain’s 16th-minute goal against the Crew that gave Inter Miami a lead they would not relinquish.

Here’s a look at the goal from Miami’s veteran striker.

Unable to build any road momentum from the thrilling Hell is Real Derby win two weeks ago, Columbus traveled to Miami to play the team’s second consecutive match in Florida and the first match against Inter Miami. Inter started the season with a dreadful run of form but has been gone unbeaten in the team’s five prior matches and is just on the fringe of the MLS Cup playoffs.

The Black & Gold returned three long-injured players to the lineup (center back Josh Williams, left back Milton Valenzuela and central midfielder Marlon Hairston) while forward Gyasi Zardes returned to the bench for the first time since tweaking his hamstring on Aug. 18 against the New York Red Bulls. All in all, the Crew had the chance to grab some much-needed road points against a team in equal playoff standing.

Higuain’s goal begins with an awkward Leandro Gonzalez-Pirez clearance down the field.

Valenzuela and Lewis Morgan eye up the lofted clearance and battle for position to win a headed ball.

Valenzuela out-positions Morgan and sends a headed pass toward Pedro Santos.

Santos picks up the ball under light pressure from Gregore and carries the ball a few yards toward his teammates.

Morgan slides his defensive pressure toward Santos leaving the Portuguese winger with four options. He can play a quick drop pass to Valenzuela, a more difficult ball back to Williams, a touch pass back to Hairston or a simple square pass to a wide open Darlington Nagbe.

Santos drops the ball back to Valenzuela with Rodolfo Pizarro and Inter Miami in pursuit

Valenzuela sees Pizarro’s pressure and hits a quick pass forward to Hairston.

Hairston collects the ball, turns and plays a short pass to Darlington Nagbe.

Nagbe could turn and carry the ball forward into the wide open space behind him, but he instead plays a first-touch pass right back to Hairston.

Hairston is pressured by Pizarro and hits a quick ball down the field toward no one in particular.

Gregore steps into the path of Hairston’s awkward clearance and hits a pass out in front of Pizarro.

Gregore’s pass is a bit heavy for Pizarro, sending the Mexican attacker into a chase for the ball with Williams easily stepping in to intercept Gregore’s pass.

Williams lets the ball run past him to provide some additional time and turns to survey the positioning of his teammates.

On the ball, Williams has four options. He can take a touch toward the end line, play a deep drop pass to Eloy Room, who is standing inside the goalbox, hit a square pass around Higuain to Wormgoor or make a quick turn and pass up the field to Hairston.

Williams decides to hit a pass either toward Room or Wormgoor but somehow misjudges the pace he puts on the ball. The veteran center back instead hits a slow pass that rolls right into the path of Higuain.

Higuain easily picks off Williams’ pass and carries the ball toward the Columbus goal.

Room steps up to defend Higuain leaving the former Juventus striker with two options, a shot on goal or a touch around the goalkeeper.

Higuain goes for the chip shot leaving Wormgoor as the last potential line of defense.

Wormgoor sprints toward the shot and looks to have a play on the ball before it reaches the goal line.

The ball bounces in front of the goal line, giving Wormgoor a chance, albeit from a very difficult angle, to clear the ball.

Unfortunately, the ball trajectory of the ball and Wormgoor’s run see the attempted clearance head over the goal line...

...into the back of the net.

Findings:

  1. This play is an odd instance of multiple Crew players making the more difficult decision: Santos passed up a wide-open Nagbe, Nagbe played a dangerous pass to Hairston rather than turn into open space, Williams makes an awkward pass.
  2. It’s difficult to tell what Williams was doing with this ball. Maybe Room could have been further off his line but Williams had ample time to gauge Room’s position and still hits a weak pass that’s intercepted just a few yards into the goal box.