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.