Anatomy of a goal: Breaking down Keane's first earned goal

Jeff Gross

Robbie Keane scored three goals against the Sounders. But the first goal of the night was the only one he clearly earned. Here's how he did it, and how almost every Sounders defender fell flat on the play.

When is a hat trick only kind of sort of a hat trick? Well, when two of your goals came on penalty kicks that other players earned, while your other was a result of a possible (probable?) hand ball in the box by your team. Of course, Robbie Keane was clearly the best player on the pitch that night, and he was definitely deserving of a hat trick if anyone was to get one. But the first LA Galaxy goal of the night was the only one that he clearly earned, even though he'll only be listed as the assist man.

The situation: the Sounders have just cleared an early corner kick. They have been under pressure since the start of the match, but nothing they cannot handle. Well, usually. The guys do a great job pushing out their line to force the Galaxy out of the box. But then, once Keane touches the ball, things start to fall out of place. Herein we find mistakes from pretty much everyone. I encourage you to watch the sequence again, at least once. Okay, now let's set the scene (click to embiggen if any are too small for you):

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Here we have Keane's first touch on the ball. Brad Evans is defending him. Leo Gonzalez is nearby, loosely marking Juninho. Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Djimi Traore are both marking Gyasi Zardes, but you can see here that Traore is looking for someone else to mark since Hurtado has Zardes covered. Servando Carrasco is also hanging around the defense. Eddie Johnson is marking Omar Gonzalez, with Sean Franklin running a bit loose. Just out of frame, to the left, are DeAndre Yedlin and Landon Donovan. Shalrie Joseph is occupying the top of the box, having just recognized that no one is yet marking Sean Franklin. He leaves the middle, giving up that space to Marcelo Sarvas. I believe that Shalrie bought Keane's stepover from 20 yards away, thinking he was going straight to goal.

Brad bought it too, which becomes a problem. Brad, knowing the type of wizardry Keane is capable if, gives him space without forcing him anywhere. You're just supposed to stand him up, right? Well, maybe not when he has a perfect give-and-go partner. This is what it looks like a few frames later:

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Here Brad is giving Keane the space and respect he commands. Leo is preparing for the overlap by Juninho. Perhaps he could have aided Brad by applying direct pressure on Keane, letting Brad handle the overlap. But, as Leo is the LB, he decides to assume his positioning and stay loosely associated with the man 5 yards behind the ball.

In this frame you can also see the ocean of open space that Sarvas is allowed. Shalrie vacated that space, and Carrasco did not step up. Carrasco is only now recognizing where he is needed. I do not know whose issue this is, but I'm tempted to place the blame on Shalrie. There were enough people back to cover the offense, and Sharie was in good position to own the top of the box. But here's Sarvas with no one within 15 yards of him. That's a recipe for disaster.

The next couple frames are best viewed on video. Keane does a few quick stutter/twitch moves before laying it off to Sarvas, taking off towards goal in the same motion. Saravas executes a very nice one-touch back to Keane. Brad doesn't immediately recognize it, but turns quickly and works hard to try and cut off the angle for the give-and-go. Carrasco also works to cut off the angle. But a bit of poor luck punishes his poor positioning, and Keane is on to goal. See just how close Carrasco was to shutting this whole play down.

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Yes, that ball passed right between his legs. It's really the only way the ball could have got to Keane without Brad intercepting it first. Then we get to the last few fateful moments, where some of the bigger mistakes were made. Brad slows down because he sees Hurtado rushing to meet Keane. The Sounders do in fact have enough guys to cover all of the Galaxy's players.

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Counting Keane and not counting Brad, this is a 5 on 5 in the box. Hurtado goes to stop Keane, and, just like Brad, probably respects him a bit too much. Traore is recognizing that Hurtado is taking the ball, so he slides over to cover Zardes. At that point, one of Shalrie or Eddie should probably move over to cover Franklin. That does not happen. Yedlin probably does the right thing by hanging out and covering Donovan. Can't fault him much there, though perhaps a more experienced defender would yell at one of Eddie or Shalrie to cover for Traore. But Shalrie really should know better. He should have told Eddie to stay on Gonzalez while he went to cover Franklin.

Meanwhile, Hurtado gets completely juked by the slightest shot fake by Keane. He lunges and stabs, and Keane just slides right around him. He tries to get some leverage, but Keane is just too wily, experienced, and skilled to be hampered by the effort.

This is the end result of those mistakes:

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Hurtado is desperately trying to matter. Traore is left trying to cut out crosses to three different players. Brad is trailing the play without any way to help. Joseph is not marking the player he's supposed to, and not even in great position on the player he's decided to mark. Gspurning is covering his post, ready for what could be a great shot from Keane. Yedlin is trailing, loosely marking Donovan. And Eddie is, uhh, well, just kind of standing around waiting for the goal. He used to be marking Gonzalez, remember. I don't know if it was supreme confidence that Hurtado would win the ball, or if it was a feeling of helplessness that washed over him, or what, but Eddie really is no help at all here. It's not entirely his fault, but him just standing around is something I'm finding impossible to ignore.

In the end, Keane beats two fairly good Sounders defenders (yes, Evans is normally good), and uses Franklin as a prop to score the Galaxy's first goal of the night. The entirety of the game was a cataclysm of defensive errors for the Sounders, and it seemed nearly everyone was responsible for this first one. Hopefully this becomes a learning experience.

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