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 13 of the 2023 MLS season, we take a look at Malte Amundsen’s 52nd minute goal that briefly leveled the Hell is Real derby during Saturday’s 3-2 loss at FC Cincinnati.
Here is a look at the goal from the Crew wing-back.
The first Hell Is Real Derby of 2023 was the biggest match for both of Ohio’s teams. Columbus started well in possession but gave up two quick goals that left the Cincinnati fans celebrating in their home stadium. Black & Gold attacker Lucas Zelarayan was able to pull one goal back before the halftime whistle, sending the visitors into the locker room down one goal but with the vast majority of possession and having dampened the Orange and Blue party.
Amundsen’s leveler begins with a Cincinnati clearance. Attacking midfielder, and two-goal scorer Luciano Acosta, clears the ball downfield in hopes of starting an FC Cincy counter attack.
Acosta’s clearance does not have enough loft to do damage, giving center back Gustavo Vallecilla the time to recover the ball and redirect it harmlessly toward goalkeeper Patrick Schulte.
Schulte picks up the ball and, after surveying the field, begins the possession with a pass to right center back Steven Moreira.
Moreira takes the ball forward toward the midfield line.
As we’ve discussed here before, one of the most utilized tactics by this Nancy offense is to try to manufacture counter attack opportunities while in possession. That is done by encouraging the center backs and goalkeeper to hold onto the ball while in possession and carry it directly into the teeth of the opposing defense. When the defense presses, Columbus looks to start a counter attack as if the team has just won the ball back.
In theory, and in practice during the early part of the season, this tactic makes a lot of sense in MLS. As many have pointed out, possession and winning have become inversely correlated, which bucks the trend found elsewhere. The salary structure in MLS tends toward teams spending more on attack and less on the backline, which results in at least one center back playing at a below replacement level. With this the case for almost every team in the league, it makes the decision to counter attack at that weakness a no-brainer.
With the vast majority of the league focused on scoring by letting the other team control possession, Nancy is admirably looking to establish a way to win with a possession-heavy style by creating these manufactured counter-attack opportunities.
Here, however, FC Cincinnati does not take the bait, leaving Moreira unmarked with the ball and with five options. He can play a short pass to central midfielder Aidan Morris, try a long pass forward to other central midfielder Darlington Nagbe, continue to carry the ball forward, play a pass up the sideline to wing back Mohamed Farsi or try a drop pass back to center back Philip Quinton.
Moreira pushes the team forward and hits a long pass toward Farsi.
Farsi takes a touch before immediately playing the ball right back to Moreira.
Now at midfield, Moreira is in the same position as he was previously. He carries the ball forward hoping to pull one or both of Acosta and Junior Moreno forward to open up counter attacking space.
This time Moreira is successful. Acosta takes a step toward him opening up space for Morris, playmaker Alexandru Matan and forward Cucho Hernandez to step into. Moreno leaves Nagbe forcing midfielder Alvaro Barreal to defend both Nagbe and Farsi. Moreira must decide whether to play the ball to Moris, hit a pass forward to Matan, play the same pass forward to Hernandez, find Nagbe with a direct ball or hit a pass up the sideline to Farsi.
Moreira hits a pass forward directly to Hernandez. The Cincinnati defense collapses on Hernandez who sees Nagbe with an open lane forward.
Nagbe takes off toward the goal as the ball arrives to Hernandez. Barreal now must attempt to catch up to Nagbe while leaving Farsi unmarked just behind him.
Hernandez hits a quick pass over the top, out in front of Nagbe.
Nagbe reaches up to the ball with the Black & Gold manufactured counter attack in full swing. Farsi trails Nagbe while Amundsen makes a run toward the goal box on the opposite wing. Matan darts toward the middle of the goal box with Hernandez making a run toward the far post behind him.
Nagbe reaches the ball, takes a touch forward, and immediately has three options. He can serve a cross into the penalty box toward Hernandez and Matan, attempt to beat Barreal off the dribble or try a drop pass back to an unmarked Farsi.
Nagbe drops the ball back to Farsi who doesn’t have a defender within 15 yards.
Farsi takes the ball to the edge of the goal box and must now choose among five options. He can play a pass back to Nagbe near the touchline, continue to carry the ball forward, try a chipped cross toward Hernandez, play a short touch pass to Matan or play a square pass through traffic to Amundsen.
Farsi hits a looping cross toward Hernandez.
Farsi just under-hits the cross allowing defender Nick Hagglund to get a headed touch on the ball.
Unfortunately for Hagglund, his clearance attempt lands right at the feet of Hernandez.
Hernandez receives the ball and sees a widow toward the goal.
The Crew striker hits a shot toward the Cincinnati goal.
Roman Celentano gets in front of the ball but is unable to control possession. The Cincinnati goalkeeper deflects the ball back toward the penalty spot. Amundsen continues his run forward and looks to pounce on the loose ball.
Amundsen beats everyone to the ball and has the chance for a quick shot.
The Danish wing back is able to get off a shot, sending a low ball toward the goal.
Celentano is unable to get a touch on the ball as his teammates watch it roll past him…
…into the back of the net!
- Down 2-0 by the 23rd minute, Columbus could have quit pushing but the Crew did the opposite. The Black & Gold continued to push for a goal and were able to create enough chances to deserve a result.
- This goal is another example of a manufactured counter attack where Columbus use its possession as a way to force the defense to over-commit to a press. When the Black & Gold do, the Crew looks to immediately move toward the goal.
- Amundsen does some easy work so well here. He crashes a shot and scores a huge goal for Columbus.