Hassli v Nagbe for MLS goal of the season; which was better?

Lots of unhappiness around Vancouver today when it was announced that Eric Hassli’s wonder goal was beaten by Portland Timbers Darlington Nagbe’s for MLS Goal of the Season (as voted by the fans it should be noted). Many thought it was robbery that the award didn’t go to the Caps big striker.

Let’s look at Hassli’s first:

What does that goal bring to the table? Starting with the misplayed ball by the Sounders defender, Hassli demonstrates great reaction to the situation instantly and everything he does from there is full of precision and intent through to the ball arcing over Casey Keller into the Sounders goal.

He knows he’s going to get just one touch before striking it and from where he is in the box he needs the shot to go up and over Keller. Instinctively, he knows a shot from the ground will not have the power to get by him if he shoots low and will not have the time to rise and fall the way a volley from there will. That necessitates an absolutely perfect first touch that takes him by the defender, lifts the ball in the air and then doesn’t go too far so as to spoil the angle he needs on release. As good as the actual vision was to see what was needed (and see it so quickly) and as good as the actual finish was, I think it’s the quality of the first touch that makes this goal as good as it is. He’s a big guy moving at pace towards the ball and the touch goes exactly where he needs it to go, following the path in the air he needs it to go. Truly a goal of rare quality.

Now, Darlington Nagbe’s goal against Kansas City.

Similar in terms of it also being a volley from a similar distance on the right side of the box, it’s undeniably spectacular as well. Dagbe though is fortunate in that the clearance from the keeper off the free kick comes almost right to him at the top of the box in an acre of space. The fact that he can receive it in the air, do a keep up and then strike it on the third touch is testament to the amount of time he had without being closed down. What really facilitates this goal is how deep KC defends the free kick. This leaves too much ground to get out and close down players like Nagbe lurking around the top of the box.If you freeze the video three seconds in you can see there is no one within 15 yards of him when the keeper punches the ball. He also benefits from the fact that the keeper, after punching the ball, needs to get his balance back and start back-peddling into position to prepare for the shot. He probably wasn’t as well positioned or set for the shot as much as he would have liked.

So great touch, cute bit of juggling and a viciously hit volley but lacks the invention, quickness of thought, precision of touch at pace and even the technical difficulty of Hassli hitting the ball across his body on the run from a poor angle.

Hate to seem biased towards the Caps but to me Hassli’s goal is clearly superior.

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10 Responses to Hassli v Nagbe for MLS goal of the season; which was better?

  1. cutleron says:

    Neither should be goal of the year. Both players could be in that same situation and they would score less than one in twenty times. Both shots are hopeful, random. Surely there were some decent team-play goals in MLS this season.

    That said, I totally agree that Hassli’s reaction and first touch were full of intent. Nagbe’s juggling should have got that shot blocked, as Gregor says.

    And Gregor, where do you hang out to feel “lots of unhappiness around Vancouver today”? I think it was the weather, not this. 😉

      • K says:

        Both were superb. Creative. Brave. Footwork. Power. Agility. But Nagbe’s goal won because he had more fans. Hassli’s was better.
        Even Keller acknowledged it as the best goal ever scored against him. High Praise.

        Nagbe’s goal was technically-sick. But yes, the defending was extremely poor.

    • Colin Elmes says:

      Cutleron, thats the whole point. That is what a wondergoal is. If it can be replicated what is “wonder” about that?

      As a long time player of this game the Hassli strike is up there in the all time best for me

  2. It was a fan vote and unfortunately the Timbers simply jammed the ballot by getting a campaign going for Nagbe’s goal.

    Both are fine goals, but I agree with Gregor. Hassli made his goal happen. He attacked the ball, made a wonderful first touch and hit a ball that Keller had no chance on. Nagbe does fine work, but the KC defence gave him too much time. Without pressure, most players can at least attempt a playground style juggle and strike. Nagbe’s time on the ball reduces the degree of difficulty. It’s still a fine goal, just not as superb and audacious as Hassli’s first touch and strike.

  3. Gregor says:

    This one’s up there too. Messi v Arsenal in Champions League, 2010.

  4. TM says:

    Love Hassli goal from the aesthetic point of view but frankly seem more of a fluke than anything else. He never looked to see where the goalie was and seems like he just punted in the general direction of the net and hoped for the best as opposed to Nagbe who actually shot with the end result in mind. Hassli is technically more difficult and spectacular and should win IF YOU BELIEVE it was a fully planned strike.

    Maybe I’m not giving the guy the proper credit but I’ve seem other wondergoals out there, including this one from him – http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Vb2RR-grSdw – where very little real planning and intent existed.
    Heck, I’ve scored goals where I had no real clue where the goalie was and they just came right by chance. The difference is I admit I suck as a football player…

    If Hassli was that good as the shot would seem to indicate, he’d have played and be counted alongside Zizou and Henri…..

    • Gregor says:

      I will respectfully disagree and attribute his lack of a look towards goal to the fact that he instinctively knows where the goal by his position at the corner of the box and knows the position a keeper will have taken up. Based on that he then knows the only path for the ball to the goal is a looping volleyball far stick.

      As for the Hassli goal you linked to, I thought it was pretty great too. He takes a very smart, subtle look to his right, after his first touch takes him that way, to try to get the keeper to bite slightly in that direction (can’t really tell from the footage if he actually does) and then rips one across his body back to the left. I see a lot of intention in that one as well.

      • TM says:

        Again, maybe I am being mean and disrespectful to the ability of the guy but I kinda doubt it. Every week I see kids scoring goals they shouldn’t where they kick a ball towards net with no real hope of scoring and it gets in by chance. Some players outgrow this, some don’t. I call that the lottery ticket approach of playing football.

        As a coach I praise my players not only for the result but for the intent behind the play. A goal from an absurd shot by Maradona, Pele or Messi gets the benefit of the doubt because of who took it. If Nameless Joe does the same I am amazed at the whims of fortune and the humour of the football gods.

        Hassli IMHO buys a lot of goal lottery tickets and, hence, is bound to cash in a few….
        Having said that, fluke or not, it was an awesome goal.

    • RR says:

      I believe you’re selling Hassli very short, TM. Not a Messi or a Van Persie to be sure, but he’s a very skillful player nonetheless. He’s got excelllent foot skills and agility for a man his stature, and can hit the ball with power and/or finesse as the situation dictates:

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