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 27 of the 2021 MLS Season, we take a look at Gyasi Zardes’ 44th minute goal against CF Montreal that gave the Crew a 1-0 lead as part of a 2-1 win on Saturday.
The Black & Gold returned to Lower.com Field on the back of a 1-1 draw at the Eastern Conference-leading New England Revolution. Back in Columbus, the Crew hosted a Montreal team ahead of them in the MLS Cup playoff standings, representing yet another must-win match if this team looks to sneak into the postseason late in the year.
Columbus has fallen victim to some lackadaisical starts over the course of this seasnoo but this match was not one of those occurrences. From the start, the Black & Gold played like a team that knew the match was a must-win and executed a stout defensive game plan.
Zardes’ goal begins with Montreal in possession. Joel Waterman carries the ball across midfield where he clashes with Marlon Hairston. It appears that Hairston fouls Waterman by stepping on his foot, but the Montreal center back maintains possession and carries the ball a few steps forward.
Waterman plead for a foul but the referee signaled advantage. He carries forward before playing a quick pass toward Joaquin Torres.
Torres is met by Milton Valenzuela, who bodies up the winger.
Valenzuela just beats Torres and sends the ball back toward Hairston.
Torres chases Hairston to the ball, forcing the Columbus midfielder to make a quick decision. Hairston sees Liam Fraser, completing a passing triangle with Valenzuela.
Hairston plays a first-touch pass to Fraser who has already spotted Derrick Etienne Jr. sprinting unmarked toward the midfield line.
Fraser tees up a pass and hits a first timer between Torres and Waterman, right into the path of Etienne.
Etienne times his run well and is off to the races in pursuit of Fraser’s well-weighted pass.
Etienne meets the ball about 40 yards from the end line. Zardes makes a parallel run toward the goal while Samuel Piette scrambles to recover onto Etienne.
Piette reaches Etienne at the corner of the goal box, forcing the Crew winger to decide whether to continue his run up the flank or to cut in toward the goal. Zardes continues his run and shifts behind Kamal Miller.
Etienne cuts toward the goal and Piette quickly recovers. Now, the Columbus winger has three options. He can take a shot on goal, continue carrying the ball forward or play a curling cross into the path of Zardes.
Etienne spies Zardes and tees up a curling pass into the path of his striker.
At first glance, it appeared that Zardes might have been offside when Etienne’s pass curled in. From the side angle, we can see that Zardes was a few steps onside, and the Video Assistant Referee surely saw the same thing as this goal, like every goal, was reviewed.
Etienne’s ball curls inside the penalty spot and just misses the head of Rudy Camacho.
Zardes beats Miller and has a direct path to the ball.
Zardes reaches the ball at an awkward height — too far in front of him for a diving header and too high to easily bring down. The Black & Gold striker has to decide whether to attempt a first-touch volley on goal or to use his first touch to bring the ball down to the ground.
Zardes gets his right foot onto the ball and sends a shot on goal to the right of James Pantemis.
Pantemis can only watch as the ball sails by him...
...into the back of the net.
- This goal, and Zardes’ second goal later in the match, was the Crew gameplan playing out perfectly. As Patrick Guldan mentioned in his game grades for Massive Report, head coach Caleb Porter set the team up to defend aggressively with a midfield trio of Fraser, Hairston and Darlington Nagbe playing just ahead of them. They pressure Montreal and set off counter attacks the other direction. In this play, Hairston and Fraser both play perfect first-touch passes in the defensive half to spring the team across midfield and into the lead.
- Fraser’s pass to Etienne is a play that won’t appear on the scoreline — he wasn’t given a secondary assist — but is of vast importance. Fraser saw that Etienne was both on the Columbus half of the field and had no defenders in front of him, so he played a heavier pass forward to let Etienne make use of his speed.
- Etienne once again makes a selfless play, sending an inch-perfect curling pass where only Zardes could reach it.
- With three goals in two matches, Zardes seems to be rounding into form at the perfect time. Zardes takes a ball that many would not be able to corral and easily sends it into the back of the net.