Anatomy of a Goal: Cucho Hernandez finds his first Crew goal of 2023

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 10 of the 2023 MLS season we take a look at Cucho Hernandez’s 10th minute goal, his first in the 2023 season, that briefly leveled Saturday’s 2-1 loss against Inter Miami at Field.

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

Columbus returned home after a disastrous trip to Charlotte FC that saw the team lose both the match and left wing back Will Sands for the season. Back home against Miami, the hope was that the Crew could return to winning ways against a desperate team that was winless in six matches.

Quickly, things did not go according to plan. Miami set the tone early and was able to grab a quick goal through Leonardo Campana in the seventh minute. The Black & Gold struggled to find their footing but Inter’s goal woke the team up and set the team back into the possessing attack they hope to play with all season.

Hernandez’s goal begins with Inter Miami in possession. Winger Nicolas Stefanelli carries the ball up Miami’s left flank and has fellow winger Jean Mota in his sights for a diagonal pass. Columbus right center back Steven Moreira and attacking midfielder Alexandru Matan look to pin in Stefanelli and quickly win back the ball.

Stefanelli takes a heavy touch/mishits a pass to Mota, giving Moreira the opportunity to win the ball with a quick redirection to Matan.

Matan looks to attack quickly and plays a ball just forward to win back Mohamed Farsi.

Farsi reacts to Stefanelli’s counter-pressure and quickly drops the ball back to Moreira.

Moreira is able to regroup before dropping behind the midfield line and laying off the ball to Darlington Nagbe.

The central midfielder evaluates the field and plays the ball right back to Moreira.

Moreira drops a bit deeper before playing the ball right back to Nagbe. You’ve likely noticed that Moreira and Nagbe look happy to pass the ball back and forth. What they’re doing is attempting to entice the Miami defense into a defensive action.

Much of the success of the early version of this Wilfried Nancy system is built around the team creating transition moments when in possession. The players on the ball look to put themselves in difficult situations that cause the opponent to over-commit defensively and allow the Black & Gold to attack like they’re counter attacking after winning back the ball.

Intentionally or not, Inter’s defenders refuse to take the bait here. You can see Miami manager Phil Neville waiving his hand during this play but it is unclear whether he is telling Stefanelli and Mota to stay back or whether he is imploring them to move forward.

Nagbe tries one last time to get Inter Miami to pressure him while left center back Gustavo Vallecilla raises his hand to provide a reset of the possession.

Stefanelli doesn’t bite so Nagbe drops a long diagonal pass to Vallecilla.

Vallecilla carries the ball forward and once again tries to entice Inter’s defensive pressure. With no pressure materializing, the left center back finds himself with the ball and seven options. He can play a quick touch forward to midfielder Aidan Morris, try a long pass up the sideline to left wing back Yaw Yeboah, hit a pass forward to playmaker Lucas Zelarayan who is dropping back to provide support, carry the ball forward, play a square pass to Nagbe, try a diagonal drop to Moreira or attempt a longer drop back to center back Milos Degenek.

Vallecilla looks to move the ball forward by playing a quick pass towards Zelarayan.

Zelarayan receives the ball under pressure, finally, in the center circle and quickly lays it back to Nagbe.

Nagbe sets off a sort of half-transition attack by sliding the ball to his right toward Moreira.

Moreira then plays a pass wide to Farsi.

Miami is now more engaged and looking to actively pressure the Crew. Farsi quickly plays the ball back to Moreira as the Black & Gold look to further spread the Inter defense.

Possession restarts with the defense pushed further toward the Columbus goal. Still, this is not the aggressive press the team would utilize to start an attack.

Moreira decides to move the ball forward and plays a pass right back to Farsi.

If Miami won’t press, the Black & Gold instead looks to take possession at the opponent. Farsi takes Moreira’s pass and cuts up the sideline. Matan moves in between the defensive line and the midfield to provide a passing option.

Farsi carries toward left back Franco Negri and hits a pass toward Matan before continuing down the field.

Matan has the option to play the ball back to Farsi but instead carries into the middle of the field where he finds Zelarayan.

Zelarayan turns with the ball and plays a quick pass to Morris.

Morris quickly plays a pass out to the left flank where Yeboah is waiting.

Yeboah carries the ball forward toward the Inter goalbox until he is met with defensive resistance. Without a good crossing option, Yeboah drops the ball right back to Morris.

Morris takes a few touches on the ball before dropping back to Degenek to reset the position.

Degenek surveys the field and evaluates his five options. He can play a looping pass up the sideline to Yeboah, try a short pass right back to Morris, hit a direct pass forward to Vallecilla, carry the ball toward Campana or play a square pass to Moreira.

Degenek plays the ball right back to Morris as the attack looks to find an opening.

As he did seconds before, Morris plays the ball up the sideline to Yeboah.

Zelarayan has drifted toward the left wing back who quickly plays him the ball.

Yeboah then makes a run up the left flank and Zelarayan plays a ball over the top and in front of Yeboah.

Yeboah beats right back DeAndre Yedlin to the ball and cuts toward the goal.

Yedlin and Yeboah continue to battle as the play approaches Miami center backk Serhiy Kryvstov.

Yeboah is tripped up but somehow plays a ball toward Hernandez and center back Kamal Miller.

But, Miller is able to step in front of the pass.

Miller looks to send the ball out of danger but instead finds Zelarayan on the flank.

Zelarayan allows his teammates to shift into better positions and then evaluates his four options. He can play a drop back to Morris, try a quick touch pass to Hernandez, hit a long pass to Nagbe at the top of the 18-yard box or knock a difficult ball to Yeboah.

Zelarayan spots Hernandez wide open in the goalbox so he makes the simple decision to play an easy pass to the striker.

Hernandez turns on the ball and immediately has four options. He can try a curling shot on goal, play a pass to Matan right on the penalty spot, carry the ball forward or hit a short pass in front of Nagbe.

Hernandez sees an opening on the far post and hits a curler over the left shoulder of goalkeeper Drake Callender.

Callender dives to his left but is totally unable to get a finger on the ball as it travels over his shoulder…

…into the back of the net!


  1. This play is an encapsulation of what the Crew wants to do and how teams are looking to counter that as the season progresses. Columbus wants to invite defensive pressure to create transition opportunities and teams are now getting wise to this tactic. Miami stays deep and looks to force the Black & Gold to rely on low-percentage crosses into the penalty box.
  2. The possession before Yeboah’s pass is intercepted by Miller is impressive. Before this deflection, the Crew completed 23 passes between nine players. If Yeboah’s pass is a bit sooner, Hernandez likely has a similar shot on goal and this would be an even more impressive goal than it was.
  3. Hernandez pressed to score a goal before his injury earlier in the season so he’ll surely be happy to get his first tally in this match. Expect the goals to start flowing.

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