Anatomy of a Goal: Sean Zawadzki rescues a Crew point at the death

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 eight of the 2023 MLS season, we take a look at Sean Zawadzki’s 98th minute stoppage time goal from Saturday that rescued a vital home point for the Crew against conference foe, the New England Revolution.

Here’s a look look at the dramatic goal from the young midfielder.

Columbus welcomed New England to for a battle near the top of the Eastern Conference. The Black & Gold returned home after a win, their third straight, at D.C. United while the Revolution made the trip to Ohio on the back of a 4-0 drubbing of Wilfried Nancy’s former club CF Montreal. New England was on the front foot to start the first half but the Crew recovered well to hold onto a 0-0 draw at the half.

The second half was a different story with Columbus struggling to find its footing and the Revolution pushing forward to earn a deserved goal, a Black & Gold own-goal, in the 58th minute.

Just seven minutes, and a few chippy fouls, later the match tilted in the Crew’s favor with a red card, a second yellow, to New England’s Dylan Borrero. Columbus pushed hard during the rest of the match but was ultimately unable to find a goal when, in the 89th minute, the ball struck Revolution center back Andrew Farrell’s hand in the penalty box. The referee held up play for a VAR review when the ball went out of touch at the 89:05 mark.

After a three-minute and 13-second review the VAR shockingly decided not to send what appeared to be a clear handball to the on-field official for review. Play restarted and the Black & Gold pushed for a goal.

Zawadzki’s leveler begins with a Crew throw-in near midfield.

Late substitute left wing back Jimmy Medranda tosses the ball back to center back Milos Degenek.

Degenek knows that he needs to progress the ball quickly. At 97:25, the play is currently about two minutes and 25 seconds past the five allotted minutes of stoppage time. Adding on the approximately three minutes and 13 seconds of review time for the Farrell handball and there are maybe 40 seconds left in the match. The center back is left with four options to move forward. He can play a quick pass forward to Medranda, carry the ball toward Revolution forward Jozy Altidore, try a diagonal pass into the path of Zawadzki or hit a short pass toward right center back Steven Moreira.

Degenek quickly plays to Moreira who immediately turns the ball toward the goal as Altidore provides defensive pressure.

Altidore reaches Moreira inside the midfield circle and immediately applies aggressive pressure.

Moreira and Altidore briefly jostle for position when the former United States Men’s Natiaonal Team striker brings his right foot across Moreira and toward the ball.

Altidore unbalances himself and tumbles away giving Moreira the free space and time to carry the ball forward.

Moreira carries the ball forward until he is met by midfielder Matt Polster. New England is defending in a very low block, which leaves Columbus center back with plenty of options. Moreira can play a drop pass to Zawadzki, a pass on the left flank to Medranda, attempt to beat Polster off the dribble, try a touch pass forward to forward Christian Ramirez, attempt a tough through pass to other forward Jacen Russell-Rowe, play a ball forward to defended midfielder Lucas Zelarayan, try a diagonal pass to midfielder Alexandru Matan or hit a ball up the right flank to right wing back Mohamed Farsi.

Moreira plays the ball forward to Zelarayan who has Revolution defender Dave Romney on his back.

Zelarayan turns on Romney and opens himself up for a through pass to Russell-Rowe, a similar through pass to Matan, continuing to carry the ball forward or a square pass to Farsi.

The Black & Gold’s No. 10 plays a short pass to Farsi, sending Romney and defender Noel Buck toward the wing back.

Farsi receives the ball just outside the 18-yard box and the Revolution defense has tightly collapsed. The Canadian has four options. He can play a pass right back to a now wide-open Zelarayan, try a cross into the box toward Matan and Russell-Rowe, hit an entry pass to winger Yaw Yeboah or carry the ball forward.

The unsettled defense gives Farsi the opportunity to hit a pass right back to Zelarayan.

Zelarayan receives the ball and immediately has three options of his own: a short pass forward to Moreira, a looping ball into the box toward Matan, Russell-Rowe, Ramirez and Zawadzki or a diagonal ball forward back to Farsi.

He knows that time is running out so Zelarayan hits a looping ball into the path of Zawadzki and Ramirez.

Ramirez’s run takes him further toward the goal, leaving Zawadzki as the only option to receive the pass.

No New England defenders have picked up Zawadzki giving the late Crew sub the opportunity to win an easy header in the goal box.

Zawadzki meets the ball just behind the penalty spot and whips in a header toward the right side of Djordje Petrovic’s goal.

Petrovic dives to his right but can only watch as the ball curls past him…

…into the back of the net!


  1. The uncalled handball and subsequent VAR review/no on-field review have been litigated enough. It certainly looked like a handball, and was eerily similar to both handballs called against Columbus in the first game of the season, but it would have been an unfortunate call for Farrell who did not intentionally handle the ball. Still, the goal came well within the time that should have been added to the clock due to the review.
  2. Moreira does very well to hold off Altidore and then move the ball forward.
  3. Zelaryan and Farsi combine to unsettle the Revolution defense and give the attacker just a few extra yards of space to play in a match-leveling assist.
  4. Zawadzki hits a textbook header from deep, whipping his neck to generate power and redirect the ball into the goal.
  5. This nearly last-touch goal displays some excellent resilience and a bit of an exorcism of the Black & Gold’s demons from 2022.

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