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Anatomy of a Goal: Cucho Hernandez finishes off a beautiful team move.

This week we look at Hernandez’s first goal against Atlanta United.

Sam Fahmi - Massive Report

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 25 of the 2022 MLS season, we look at Cucho Hernandez’s 66th minute goal that leveled the match as part of a 2-2 draw against

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

In a match that both teams needed to win, Atlanta set the tone early, pouring on chances before finding an eventual match-opening goal in the 21st minute. The Crew was unable to get much going in the game and was a few key Eloy Room saves away from a multiple-goal deficit.

Hernandez’ss goal begins with a throw-in deep in Columbus’ defensive half. Left back Will Sands plays a simple ball back to center back Milos Degenek.

Degenek carries the ball toward the middle of the field while United winger Luiz Araujo drops toward him to provide defensive pressure.

Araujo presses Degenek but the Black & Gold center back finds himself with multiple passing options. He can play a quick drop back to Room, attempt to carry the ball away from Araujo, try a tough, square pass to fellow center back Jonathan Mensah, hit a long ball forward to playmaker Lucas Zelarayan, play a short pass forward to central midfielder Artur, attempt a direct pass forward to central midfielder Darlington Nagbe, play a difficult ball around Araujo to winger Kevin Molino or turn the ball back toward Sands.

Degenek is able to spot Zelarayan and he hits a long pass toward the No. 10.

Zelarayan has pressure on his back and must decide what to do with his first touch. He can play a quick drop back to Mensah, hit a square pass to Nagbe, turn the ball toward the midfield or play a ball up the sideline to right back Steven Moreira.

Zelarayan uses his first touch to drop the ball to Mensah.

Mensah tees up his own first touch decision, and must decide between three options. He can either play a pass up the sideline to an unmarked Moreira, hit a pass around Caleb Wiley back to Zelarayan or carry the ball forward.

The Crew’s captain hits a quick pass to a wide-open Moreira and sets the attacking move in motion.

Columbus has beaten Atlanta’s press and can set off on a transition attack. Moreira carries the ball up the sideline with Zelarayan, Nagbe and Molino all making attacking runs from the midfield, into the space between the Five Stripes’ midfield block and their defensive line. Hernandez and winger Luis Diaz make attacking runs directly at United’s defense.

Moreira carries the ball across the midfield line while Wiley chases to provide defensive cover. Nagbe and Zelarayan angle their runs toward Moreira to provide defensive support. Molino sticks to the center of the field, unmarked by Atlanta’s defense. Hernandez and Diaz continue their runs at the Five Stripes’ defensive line.

Wiley is able to get in front of Moreira and forces the Black & Gold’s right back to cut the ball back toward the midfield line. This gives United midfielder Santiago Sosa time to shift over and provide defensive cover. Midfielder Thiago Almada follows him, leaving the middle of the field wide open.

With his back to Atlanta United’s goal, Moreira must decide what to do next. He can drop a pass back to Mensah, play a quick short pass to Zelarayan, try a difficult square pass to Molino or play a touch pass to Nagbe.

Moreira plays a soft pass to Zelarayan who has ample space to receive the ball.

Zelarayan picks up the ball and has multiple options. He can play a touch pass to Nagbe, a drop pass to Mensah, a similar drop pass to Artur, carry the ball forward or try a pass in front of Molino.

Zelarayan spots Molino making a run between the Atlanta lines and hits a quick pass to the winger.

Molino continues his run into the path of Zelarayan’s pass and sees Diaz making a run up the sideline.

Molino collects the ball and takes a touch, giving time for Diaz to continue his run in behind defender Andrew Gutman.

The winger times his pass perfectly and hits a ball into the space ahead of Diaz and Gutman.

The ball travels forward while Diaz and Gutman set off in a footrace.

Diaz edges ahead of Gutman as the ball enters the 18-yard box. Hernandez makes an unmarked run from the back post toward the middle of the goal.

Diaz prepares to make his first touch and must decide whether to keep the ball or to hit a quick cross into Hernandez.

Diaz uses his first touch to play the ball into the path of Hernandez.

The ball easily makes it through Atlanta’s defense right into the path of Hernandez.

Hernandez tees up a first-touch shot and must decide whether to shoot back toward the far post or toward Rocco Rios Novo’s near post.

Hernandez hits a hard, first timer to Rios Novo’s left.

Rios Novo is unable to reach the ball as it soars past him...

...into the back of the net!

Findings:

  1. As poorly as the Crew might have played in this match, the team’s attacking movement here is spectacular. Individuals made quick, smart decisions while the team’s collective movement into open space took advantage of the Atlanta defense’s over pursuit.
  2. Molino gave Columbus fans a glimpse of the player he can be when healthy. The winger, brought on for Derrick Etienne Jr., shifts his play more centrally and makes a clever run between the defensive lines. Then he hits a perfectly-weighted pass in front of Diaz.
  3. Diaz was one of the bright spots for the Black & Gold on Sunday. He continually put himself into good attacking positions as he does here against Gutman. His pass easily finds its way through the defense right to Hernandez.
  4. Hernandez continues to exceed expectations. He drills home this goal and contributes another just a few minutes later.