On the day that Sporting KC travels to Red Bull Arena to face New York in the Eastern Conference Knockout Round, the time has come to take a closer look at one of the goals that helped the Crew avoid playing in that match: Jairo Arrieta's opening tally vs. the Union on Sunday. It's another terrific example of Black & Gold organization and transitional play leading to a goal.
The play begins with Sheanon Williams preparing to take a long throw-in on the right sideline, a stone's throw from the Nordecke:
Some fans might have been left wondering: why did the Crew put Ben Speas in front of Williams to act as a one-man wall? The answer lies in Williams' knack for the long throw-in. He accumulated multiple assists last season with his hands, with several more goals coming off of scrambles following one of the defender's trademark long throws. It makes sense that the Crew would attempt to curb this, since throw-ins from this range for Philadelphia are essentially mini corner kicks.
With Speas defending, Williams' throw is offline, and Justin Meram is able to clear the ball easily:
The ball bounds out to Philadelphia, and the Crew has to recover. It would be easily following the scramble from a corner kick (or in this case, the long throw) to be a tad disorganized, but look at the Crew's shape here momentarily after the clearance:
It's a tad obstructed thanks to the shot, but the backline is in place, Wil Trapp is slightly behind Tony Tchani in central midfield, Jairo Arrieta is high, Ethan Finlay is wide right, Speas is hustling back after defending the throw-in and Meram is behind him on the left. Compare that to the cluster of bodies in the box you see on the screencap of Meram's clearance. Everyone is spread out appropriately and did his job, thinking quickly in the few seconds available here. It's a small detail, sure, but quick recovery in a situation like this helps when Philadelphia, as it does next, attempts to fire the ball right back into the box.
Here's the ball in the air:
If just one player were a bit scrambled after the clearance, it's possible the Union could have found a seam here. As it is, the backline is in good position, with Hector Jimenez coming inside to defend against this run by Sebastien Le Toux. Michael Parkhurst, looking at the ball the whole way here, gets a good read on it and heads forward for Wil Trapp:
Right away, much like last week's featured Film Room goal, it's turn and go for the Crew. Remember where Speas started this sequence? He's gotten himself fully back into his number 10 position and is in a great place to take the baton from Trapp:
Finlay is pressing up the right side, getting himself into a good position if it came to that. As it is, the Union's aggressively high line cost them, as they weren't able to drop deep enough quickly to defend against the next link, Jairo Arrieta.
Here's the moment the pass is played:
It's onside, and Arrieta makes quick work of Zac MacMath at the other end.
Another great example of organization by the Crew, but especially, attention to detail. Defend the long throw, get into position to defend the second attempt into the box, snuff it out, break the other way and score.