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Anatomy of a goal: Hurtado scores a dazzling solo effort

This week we look at Erik Hurtado’s 45th minute game-winner.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

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 13 of the 2022 MLS season, we look at Erik Hurtado’s 45th minute goal that doubled the Crew’s lead and set the team on course for a 2-1 victory at Atlanta United on Saturday night.

Here’s a look at the goal from Columbus’s striker.

It’s no secret that the Black & Gold have struggled to find scoring options this season. Following the trade of forward Gyasi Zardes to the Colorado Rapids and the struggles of Miguel Berry, the Crew has made it clear that the team will look to add a Designated Player-level attacking option when the summer transfer window opens. Unfortunately, that window is not yet open, so Columbus will have to look internally for goals.

To assist in this department, Crew 2 striker Jacen Russell-Rowe was brought to the first team on a short term loan but it was Hurtado who was given a surprise start in Atlanta, one of the few road locations where the Crew has had success over the past few years.

The Black & Gold lined up in a defensively-focused 4-3-3 with Lucas Zelarayan unable to play due to a thigh injury. Captain Jonathan Mensah put Columbus on the front foot early with a first minute goal off of a corner kick. The Crew held onto the lead for the remainder of the half.

Hurtado’s goal begins with the Five Stripes on the attack deep in the Black & Gold’s defensive half.

Atlanta's Marcelino Moreno lofts a pass into the penalty box toward two United attackers.

Center back Milos Degenek battles for position as the ball drops into the 18-yard box.

Degenek wins the ball and sends a headed clearance outside the goal box.

Midfielder Darlington Nagbe pounces on Degenek’s clearance while winger Derrick Etienne Jr. dashes forward to provide a passing option.

Nagbe picks up the ball and finds himself with four options. He can play a quick drop back to fellow central midfielder Aidan Morris, try a pass out of danger toward Etienne, carry the ball forward or play a touch pass to Artur.

Nagbe spots Etienne and quickly hits a ball toward the winger.

Etienne picks up Nagbe’s pass and has time to decide between three options. He can carry the ball forward, play a long ball over the top toward Hurtado or try a quick drop to Morris.

Etienne looks to clear the ball from danger and hits a pass toward the safety valve, Hurtado.

The ball travels out of danger as Hurtado and Alex DeJohn battle for position.

Hurtado outpaces DeJohn and picks up the ball outside the United goal box.

DeJohn recovers forcing Hurtado to decide between taking the ball toward the corner or back toward the goal.

Hurtado steps left before quickly cutting right.

Hurtado puts DeJohn on skates and opens himself up on a path toward the goal.

DeJohn dives in leaving Hurtado with a brief window to either take a quick shot on goal or cut back to his left.

Hurtado uses his window to take a quick, difficult shot on goal.

The shot curves toward the back post forcing goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to dive toward the ball. Shuttleworth can’t get a finger on the perfectly-placed shot and can only turn and watch as the ball curls...

...into the back of the net.

Findings:

  1. The Crew’s 4-3-3 focuses more on counter attacking than on the slow buildup of play that has been most often deployed during head coach Caleb Porter’s tenure.
  2. Columbus’ stingy formation forces a difficult entry pass that is easily dispensed with by Degenek.
  3. Nagbe makes the safe move by playing a quick ball to an open Etienne who plays long to both set Hurtado toward goal and kill some time as the half drew to a close.
  4. Hurtado does the rest of the work himself. He embarrasses DeJohn with some fancy footwork and then hits a perfect, looping shot into the back of the net.