SIRK’S NOTEBOOK: 5 fastest substitute goals

Earlier this week, you may have seen the video with the five fastest substitute goals in Columbus Crew SC history (if you haven't, scroll up!).

The first part of this Notebook is going to look back at those goals. The second part is going to provide you with a peek behind the curtain as to how that video came to exist. It was quite a journey.

But first, the goals!

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THE FIVE FASTEST SUBSTITUTE GOALS IN CREW SC HISTORY

#5: Ben Speas (August 16, 2014)

Columbus 4, LA Galaxy 1
Entered: 74th minute for Justin Meram
Scored: 75th minute, assisted by Ethan Finlay
Elapsed time: 50 seconds

With Columbus holding a 2-1 advantage heading into the final 15 minutes, Crew SC Sporting Director and Head Coach Gregg Berhalter insert Ben Speas into the lineup to replace Justin Meram. (Hmm. More on that in a bit.) Less than a minute later, Ethan Finlay drew three defenders near the top of the Galaxy’s box, then played the ball to Speas, who took a touch and then hammered a low, left-footed shot into the net. According to Speas, it worked out like Berhalter said it would.

“He told me, ‘You’re going to have a chance on the counter and put it away,’” Speas said after the game. “Fortunately enough, I got the ball from Ethan and was able to put it in the back of the net.”

#4 Jason Garey (September 6, 2008)

Columbus 4, New England 0

Entered: 66th minute for Steven Lenhart
Scored: 67th minute, assisted by Guillermo Barros Schelotto
Elapsed time: 43 seconds

For much of the summer of 2008, Columbus and New England were battling for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. On Labor Day weekend, the Black & Gold served notice that that race would soon be over. Their 4-0 stomping of the Revs was punctuated by a pair of goals by substitute Jason Garey. The first came 43 seconds after he stepped on the field. He made a run into an offside position, ran back to get onside again, and then took off again after Guillermo Barros Schelotto played a perfect ball to send him through. What makes the goal legendary is the on-field conversation that preceded it.

“When I came on to the field, Guillermo waved me over,” Garey said in the locker room afterward. “He said, ‘You come here. When I get ball, you go.’ So he got the ball and I went. The very first ball was a goal, so I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll keep doing it!’

“You think he doesn’t know you’re there, but he knows,” Garey further explained, marveling at Schelotto’s vision. “He's not even looking in my direction, but I know that if I make the run, he'll get the ball there. I'm making blind runs all the time. He will find you. That's the key—just make the runs and he will find you.”

#3 Kekuta Manneh (June 24, 2017)

Columbus 4, Montreal 1

Entered: 69th minute for Justin Meram
Scored: 70th minute, assisted by Ola Kamara
Elapsed time: 36 seconds

Like Garey’s goal, Manneh’s started with an Agrentine wizard doing something special. This time, it was Federico Higuain juggling amidst defenders in the middle of the park before volleying a pass to spring Manneh. The defense momentarily dispossessed Manneh, but Ola Kamara heeled the ball back to Manneh, who slotted home a calm finish. Manneh would add an assist two minutes later.

“Today, I played my part,” Manneh said. “I came in and helped the team and we were fortunate enough to win the game.”

Meram, who came off the field to make way for Manneh, would dub Manneh “Sub of the Year.” Meram has a unique expertise in this area. It’s crazy that two of the five fastest substitute goals in Crew SC history have been scored by a player replacing Justin Meram. That’s one magic scorer’s table handshake right there.

#2 Ethan Finlay (May 17, 2014)

Columbus 3, @Portland 3

Entered: 80th minute for Hector Jimenez
Scored: 81st minute, assisted by Federico Higuain
Elapsed time: 28 seconds

This goal was Finlay’s first career goal. It came in his 41st career appearance. The goal was a turning point in Finay’s career. He finished the 2014 season with 11 goals and 7 assists, became an MLS All-Star in 2015, and is now a member of Crew SC’s 30/ 30 Club. The dam broke open with a fortuitous deflection 28 seconds after coming into the field on a May evening in Portland.

“They’ve really been pushing me to attack late in the game,” Finlay told the Columbus Dispatch afterward. “I tried to go at the guy, and cut inside my left. I tried to find the far post and got fortunate with the deflection. You take them if they’re pretty or ugly.”

#1 Marcelo Carrera (August 14, 1996)

Columbus 2, @Dallas 2 (CLB wins shootout 3-2)

Entered: 62nd minute for Robert Warzycha
Scored: 62nd minute, assisted by Adrian Paz
Elapsed time: NINE FREAKIN’ SECONDS

Go ahead and watch that video again.

That Marcelo Carrera goal is crazy. He subs on as Columbus lines up for a corner kick. He sprints down the sideline from the scorer’s table and never breaks stride as Adrian Paz rolls a pass out to him well behind the play. Carrera takes a couple of touches and then blasts a tightly angled shot inside the upper corner of the net at the near post. Carrera went from sub to goalscorer in an unfathomable nine seconds.

Just like Columbus coach Tom Fitzgerald had drawn up that set piece.

“That was option number six,” Fitzgerald joked to the Columbus Dispatch afterward. “A brilliant coaching job.”

Carrera offered the following succinct assessment of the play to the Dispatch that night: “Adrian played the ball back to me. I think they fell asleep a little bit.”

Some additional context: D.C. United’s Alvaro Saborio has the shortest sub-to-goal time since 2009, when MLS has official to-the-second records of game events. That goal on September 6, 2014, was 18 seconds. Based on video review, Carrera’s goal is twice as fast as the officially documented record! Yowzers.

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HOW THE VIDEO CAME TO BE

All combined, it’s a 53 second video, but it took quite a journey to get there. For fun, and also to provide credit to everyone involved, I thought I would give readers an inside glimpse of how it came to be.

First, Kekuta Manneh subbed into Saturday’s game and scored 36 seconds later. That was certainly important to the process. Absolutely vital.

Shortly after the goal, I got a text from Crew SC Communications Manager Carlos Mojica, asking if I knew the fastest substitute goal in Black & Gold history. I’m a nerd, but not THAT big of a nerd. That’s a piece of knowledge that was not sitting in my brain.

Carlos’ text put me on a mission though. Suddenly, I absolutely NEEDED to know the answer to his question. As soon as I got home that night, I fired off an email to the ever-helpful Rick Lawes at MLS HQ. I had lots and lots of questions. Some of the answers appeared in the Notebook about Manneh’s big night.

For the purposes of this piece, a key answer came courtesy of the data collected by the fine folks at Elias Sports Bureau, which was a list of Crew SC players who have scored within one box score minute of entering the match.

PLAYER

DATE

RESULT

ENTRY

GOAL

Marcelo Carrera

8/14/1996

CLB 3, @DAL 2

62

62

Jason Garey

9/6/2008

CLB 4, NE 0

66

67

Tommy Heinemann

9/10/2011

TOR 4, CLB 2

66

67

Ethan Finlay

5/17/2014

CLB 3, @POR 3

80

81

Ben Speas

8/16/2014

CLB 4, LA 1

74

75

Kekuta Manneh

6/24/2017

CLB 4, MTL 1

69

70

This was a good start. It is important to note, however, that scoresheet minutes are different than elapsed time. If the box score shows someone scored one minute after entering the game, the elapsed time can range from one second to 1:59. Someone scoring two official minutes after entering would have a window of 1:01 to 2:59, so there can be overlaps. Even though Marcelo Carrera scored in the same minute he entered, any of those other goals on the list could have happened in less elapsed time. And these may not be the six fastest substitute goals, since goals scored two box score minutes later could potentially be faster than any of them except Carrera’s. Box score minutes are imprecise.

Lawes had some excellent news for me though. Internally, MLS has to-the-second data. Heinemann’s goal was 1:28 in elapsed time. Finlay’s was 28 seconds. Speas’ was 50 seconds. Manneh’s was 36 seconds.

Now we were getting somewhere! Except that the to-the-second data only goes back to 2009. That left two goals without elapsed time data. So close, yet so far away.

Enter Skyler Schmitt, Crew SC’s Video Production Manager. He started with the club as an intern in 2011 and has been full time since 2012. He’s one of those behind the scenes people that does excellent work with no fanfare.

My thought was that perhaps Skyler could find some video footage of the Garey and Carrera goals so we could determine the elapsed time. I sent him a long string of texts Sunday night explaining my predicament and asking for his help. I didn’t know if this footage would be too difficult to find or if it was even available, not to mention how far down the list of Skyler’s busy priorities my begging would be, but it was worth a shot.

On Monday, Skyler advised that he had a melt of the 1996 game. A melt is raw TV production highlights, so not like a highlight video you would find on a team site or YouTube or whatever. It will have various angles from different cameras and it’s just the raw footage. The melt of each game basically contains the footage that the club would need relating to important game events, such as goals. What I was asking for was much more mundane and specific.

The good news is that, as expected, the melt had footage of Carrera’s goal. The bad news is that the melt, understandably, had no footage of Carrera entering the field. Skyler texted to say the goal clip is about five seconds long and that he could still hear the PA announcer announcing the sub when Carrera scored. He estimated that the goal at less than 15 seconds, but we had no way of knowing for sure. We needed the full game video.

Oh well. We tried.

A short while later, this happened…

Schmitt went to the storage area and one of the first boxes he found contained VHS tapes from the 1996 season. The second tape he grabbed happened to be the one he was looking for. Incredible. Just like that, we were back in business. Well, except that Skyler needed to hook up a VCR and his TV was so modern it no longer had the necessary inputs. Fortunately, Schmitt was able to unearth a TV with that capability.

He texted me his findings.

Nine seconds.

We were on Easy Street now. The club has DVDs of the various in-house and production feeds going back to 2007. Getting the necessary Garey substitution footage would be a piece of cake. We were home free. We were just hoping that Garey’s goal was under a minute because it would create an iron-clad fastest-five list. If it was greater than a minute, we would be in limbo due to the vagaries of box score minutes vs. elapsed time, as discussed earlier.

Skyler went to the DVD binder for the 2008, which contained all of the games for that most Massive of seasons….EXCEPT for September 6, 2008, vs. New England. For whatever reason, the DVDs of that game never made it into the binder way back when. Those DVDs were somewhere, but not where they could be easily found.

We were SO CLOSE, and after our 1996 miracle, we were somehow going to be derailed by the ONE missing 2008 DVD. I was crestfallen. To be so close to having a definitive answer and to come up short was dispiriting to say the least.

A short while later, I got another text from Skyler.

With further searching, he somehow dug up VHS tapes. I told Skyler that all day long I felt like I was rooting helplessly from mission control while he was trying to land on the moon. One small VHS for a man, one giant leap into statistical certainty for mankind.

The final result was 43 seconds for Garey. Perfect! We now had a verifiably indisputable list of the five fastest substitute goals in Columbus Crew SC history.

PLAYER

DATE

RESULT

ELAPSED TIME

Marcelo Carrera

8/14/1996

CLB 3, @DAL 2 (SO)

0:09

Ethan Finlay

5/17/2014

CLB 3, @POR 3

0:28

Kekuta Manneh

6/24/2017

CLB 4, MTL 1

0:36

Jason Garey

9/6/2008

CLB 4, NE 0

0:43

Ben Speas

8/16/2014

CLB 4, LA 1

0:50

It started with a request from Carlos Mojica. Then came a two-day email conversation with Rick Lawes, featuring data from Elias Sports Bureau and MLS. Then came numerous text conversations with Skyler Schmitt and Skyler going above and beyond the call of duty with relentless acts of Black & Gold video archeology. Skyler was seriously my hero this week. I cannot thank him enough for his extraordinary efforts.

And after all of THAT, we had our definitive list of fastest Crew SC substitute goals and Skyler was able to make a video to share with the world. That video is 53 seconds long. Its brevity is almost comical considering the multi-day group effort that went into its creation.

Questions? Comments? Seen some DVDs of the 9/6/2008 game lying around somewhere? Feel free to write at sirk65@yahoo.com or via twitter @stevesirk
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