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Anatomy of a Goal: The Crew’s first goal of 2023 is scored by the Philadelphia Union

This week we look at the first Black & Gold goal of the new season.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-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 one, a 4-1 loss, of the 2023 MLS season, we look at Jakob Glesnes’s own goal, created by a Cucho Hernandez pass and an Alex Matan run, that briefly gave the Crew the lead in the team’s season opening loss at the Philadelphia Union.

Here is a look at Columbus’s first goal of the 2023 season.

The new-look Columbus side took the field for the first time in 2023 with a lineup that surprised everyone not named Wilfried Nancy. Nancy’s first lineup in charge of the Black & Gold featured three former Crew 2 standouts — goalkeeper Patrick Schulte, center back Philip Quinton and wing back Mohamed Farsi — and the return of attacker Alexandru Matan.

Early in the match, the surprise lineup proved a boon to the Crew with the team pushing hard on the attack while mitigating defensive risk. Midfielder Darlington Nagbe, wearing the captain’s band, took more of a role in the attack and that is where we begin for the first Columbus goal of 2023.

Nagbe sets the attack in motion as he wins the ball off of an errant Union headed pass following some heavy pressure by the Black & Gold. The Crew’s captain picks up the ball near midfield and carries it toward the Philadelphia goal box. The attack springs to life ahead of Nagbe giving a look at how the team wants to operate under Nancy: Farsi starts a wide, overlapping run from his wing back position while Hernandez, Matan and playmaker Lucas Zelarayan make runs from central positions.

Nagbe continues forward flanked by Hernandez and Matan. Farsi continues his over-lapping run which shifts Hernandez further toward the middle of the field.

The attacking move shifts toward the right side of the penalty box. Nagbe approaches the Union defense and must choose between four options. He can play a through pass to Matan, attempt to beat defender Jack Elliott on the dribble, play a short, square pass to Hernandez or hit a pass into the path of Farsi.

Nagbe squares the ball to Hernandez and continues his own run toward the goal. Matan continues his diagonal run in front of Jakob Glesnes. Elliott shifts toward Hernandez while defender Kai Wagner steps to defend. Farsi continues his overlapping run forcing Wagner to decide whether to track the attacker into the 18-yard box or stick to Hernandez.

Hernandez takes a touch toward the goal as the attacking runs continue. The Union defense shifts toward Hernandez leaving Zelarayan unmarked at the top of the goal box.

Hernandez continues into the box and is met by Elliott and Wagner. He must decide between three options. He can try a low, driven pass to Matan, a quick shot on Andre Blake’s goal or a pass forward to Farsi.

The Crew’s striker tees up a shot but hits a low, driven pass into the path of Matan.

Elliott is unable to get a foot on the ball and ends up seeing himself nutmegged by Hernandez’s pass.

The ball rolls between Elliott’s legs toward Matan and Glesnes.

Matan approaches the ball but will have to stretch to get on the end of the pass.

The ball just inches past Matan’s out-stretched foot.

Glesnes instinctively juts his foot toward the ball and ends up re-directing the path of the pass toward his goalkeeper.

The ball changes its trajectory as it leaves Glesnes’s foot. Blake is caught stepping in the wrong direction and must quickly recover to the ball.

Blake quickly drops his left foot into the path of the ball.

The Union goalkeeper is able to get a foot onto the ball but is unable to stop its goalward trajectory.

The ball bounces off of Blake’s foot...

...into the back of the net!


  1. After a dreadful second half, this attack provides a glimmer of hope for the Black & Gold faithful. Nancy’s Columbus side wins the ball with pressure and immediately sets off toward the goal. Rather than sending in a wide cross, Hernandez fires an entry pass in front of the goal that makes its way into the back of the net.
  2. The Crew displays excellent movement off the ball with Matan’s run dragging Glesnes away from the middle of the penalty box and Farsi’s giving Wagner reason to pause, thus opening up space for Hernandez to make the pass toward Matan.
  3. Hernandez will feel hard done to not be credited with the goal, but Glesnes’s deflection is what gives Columbus a, brief, lead. The deflection wrong-foots Blake who still nearly makes the save.