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Anatomy of a Goal: Crew’s Lucas Zelarayan opens his 2023 account

This week we look at Lucas Zelarayan’s first goal of the 2023 season.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

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 two of the 2023 MLS season, we take a look at Lucas Zelarayan’s 10th minute goal that gave the Crew a lead the team would not relinquish on Saturday against old foes D.C. United at Field.

Here is a look at Zelarayan’s first goal of 2023.

Columbus opened the team’s 2023 home schedule with a barely-changed lineup from the season-opener at the Philadelphia Union. Yaw Yeboah stepped in at wing back for an injured Will Sands while goalkeeper Eloy Room returned to his starting spot after a match away due to the green card process. The Black & Gold stuck with the same back three with Steven Moreira sticking to the right center back role rather than pushing forward to look for overlaps.

Zelarayan’s goal begins with a Crew free kick in United territory. Yeboah stands over the ball and has four options. He can play a quick pass forward to striker Cucho Hernandez, a diagonal pass to Zelarayan, a square pass to midfielder Darlington Nagbe or a drop back to midfielder Aidan Morris.

Yeboah takes the safest option and drops the ball back to Morris.

The Crew played the ball quickly here but D.C. has quickly recovered to reorganize the defense. Morris prepares to receive the ball and finds himself with multiple options. He can go with a short pass forward to Nagbe, play a long diagonal pass to attacking midfielder Alexandru Matan, carry the ball forward, play a pass forward to Zelarayan, try a long ball over the top to Hernandez or hit a pass right back to Yeboah.

With defender Chris Durking shifting his defense forward, Morris quickly plays the ball right back to Yeboah.

Durkin sprints back to cover Yeboah and the wing back can either play a through pass in front of Hernandez, attempt to carry the ball forward, try a quick pass into the path of Zelarayan or hit a drop pass right back to Morris.

Yeboah picks out Zelarayan and hits a quick pass toward Columbus’ No. 10.

Zelarayan spots Hernandez making a run toward the goal and uses his first touch to redirect the ball into the path of the striker.

Hernandez receives the ball and drives toward the goal with defender Andy Najar in tow.

As Hernandez nears the goal box, he is met by United’s Victor Palsson. Najar covers off on the angle toward the middle of the field forcing Hernandez to choose between continuing carrying the ball toward the goal line, trying a difficult cross into the penalty box toward Matan or a quick pass into the path of Zelarayan.

The Black & Gold striker takes a quick touch toward the end line and sets off around Palsson and Najar.

Hernandez continues toward the goal line but he is running out of space. He must quickly decide whether to cross the ball into the path of Matan, find Zelarayan with a quick back pass, cut the ball back toward the 18 yard-line and attempt to beat Najar and Palsson on the dribble or drop the ball back to Yeboah.

Hernandez picks out Zelarayan and hits a quick pass back toward his teammate.

The ball is a bit out of the path of Zelarayan forcing him into a chase for possession with defender Russell Canouse.

Zelarayan is able to out-position Canouse and uses his left foot to collect the ball and quickly turn toward the goal.

Zelarayan’s deft turn leaves Canouse out of position and gives the No. 10 the space and time to make an attacking move on the goal.

Zelarayan now has three options. He can take a shot on goal, try a quick pass forward to Matan or a square pass to Mohamed Farsi.

Of course, Zelarayan tees himself up for a shot on goal.

D.C. center back Steve Birnbaum lunges toward the ball but is unable to deflect the shot.

Goalkeeper Tyler Miller dives toward the shot but is unable to get a deflection as the ball soars past him...

...into the back of the net!


  1. The Black & Gold look to play quickly here but United is prepared. Still, Morris and Yeboah combine for some quick passes to unsettle Durkin and free up the attacking move.
  2. Hernandez and Zelarayan show their chemistry with some really excellent combination play. Hernandez has displayed a tendency to set up teammates during his first two matches of 2023 and continues that trend by playing a pass back to Zelarayan for the assist.
  3. Zelarayan is once again a magic man. He shows off his technical ability with the quick one-touch pass to Hernandez and the deft touch to redirect the Hernandez pass away from Canouse and toward the goal. An unmarked shot on goal from Zelarayan in that position finds itself in the back of the net nearly every time.