I am going to step out of my norm and show a few photos of “that goal” and the time immediately surrounding that moment. Surely by now, most everyone has seen the Gianluca Busio goal against the Houston Dynamo and if not, here is a couple angles that show the brilliance of that particular goal.
Busio has already had a number of big clubs in the world express interest in him and if he keeps scoring like this there will be a long line of suitors for his services. His versatility in positions only adds to the interest.
One of the benefits of being a photographer in these situations is how close I am to the action. From the field, just behind the boards sometimes I often see little details that others do not, and sometimes I see far less because of the intense focus, (pun intended) on a specific scene within that moment.
This story begins when Gadi Kinda was tripped up outside the box by Houston midfielder Matias Vera.
Referee Drew Fischer called the fairly obvious foul. This created much weeping and gnashing of teeth in disbelief at the injustice of the ref actually making a call. The Dynamo players were pointing in all directions and taking EVERY opportunity to explain to the official the error of his ways all at once. Fischer calmy marked the spot and walked off the distance while Busio plotted his shot.
The Houston wall is formed and SKC players start stalking along it, looking for a weakness in the Dynamo defense, for an opening where they can step through and finish a rebound.
It is this point in time that the photographer needs to make a decision. At this range, from my vantage point (close to the 18-yard-box), it would be difficult to shoot the kick and then swing to the keeper for a potential save opportunity. In these cases, the photographer can make a choice. Either concentrate on the player taking the kick, or the wall, or the keeper to place focus on to achieve a specific shot.
The kicker can usually be a safe bet for a decent shot but if there are any deceptions, players running over the ball or making runs from deeper, they can block the shot. The photographers shot that is. It’s not a great shot when a body runs in front of the kicker at the fateful moment, plus there are always lots of shots of players kicking a ball.
If I choose to focus on the wall, it can be the same problem of someone running into frame and ruining a potential good shot. One reason to focus on the wall is sometimes, on rare occasion, the ball hitting the wall can be a fun and interesting shot. Well fun and interesting for the photographer but not so much for the poor defender that gets hit in the face. When it works, the rare image can be captured of the ball slamming into or just careening away from the wall, leaving a spray of sweat, irrigation droplets and tiny little grass clippings suspended in the air by 1/2000 of a second of suspended animation.
Those are a little rare to get the perfect photo though. The right position of the ball, the wall and the photographer, must be in sync. Even when everything is in line, more often the shot goes into someone in the wall that blocks the camera view or it sails wide or high leaving an image of nothing but a few players jumping like a badly rehearsed chorus line.
Focusing on the keeper can be just as difficult and unrewarding but it can also provide a spectacular save shot. After looking at the position of the shooter, the wall and the angle I have, I plot my best guess to get a good shot. If I choose keeper, I will pre-focus on the keeper and then lock it so it stays on him and does not get pulled away by the goal post or other passing object. Then when the kick is taken, press the shutter at the right moment being prepared to shift focus if the keeper dives and something good may happen.
All too often the shot goes high, and the ball never even enters the view from the camera, or it hits the wall and you wish you had chosen option B for your focus.
On this day, I chose the keeper. While there was no great save, or even a dive, it is the next part of this story.
It has been said that Houston keeper Marko Maric never moved. This is not quite true, he did move a bit. Maric cheated a bit to one side and when Busio’s kick arced over the wall he took a small hop in that direction but stopped. It’s unknown whether he “knew” it was going over the crossbar or that he had no chance to get there if it dipped. In either case he stopped and became just as much a spectator as the rest of the 20,000 people in that stadium.
According to the augmented highlights, Busio’s shot was from 27.3 yards away from goal. In the video it can be seen to go up over the wall and then dip, curving towards the post. In the shot above the ball is already in the six-yard-box and still above the height of the crossbar. Maric is already looking at the upper 90 and probably hoping for the best... and receiving the worst.
The ball has now traveled around five yards from the last shot and is very close to crossing the line. Maric has barely moved in that time, fully committed to his spectator role now. Not like he has a choice anymore.
Also, from the augmented highlights we find out that Busio’s shot was at 60.7 mph and was an expected goal rate of 9%. From 27.3 yards at 60.7 mph, it should take just under one second to go across the goal line.
Up, over the wall, dip and curl in that one second.
The characteristic “thunk” made when the ball connects with the post with some force was heard and then the shot rebounds across the goal. Sometimes when that “thunk” is heard it means the keeper’s best friend, the post has helped him out. In this case it was a small punctuation point on a terrific shot.
The next image is the ball rebounding back out of the goal but now it is slowed enough that Maric has turned his head, looking for it to bounce out.
When a goal is scored at Children's Mercy Park, there is a roar. Sam Kovzan is one of the fine PR staff for Sporting KC and he made a great observation. I went back and listened more than once. It is not a “yay!” (or however that should be spelled). There is a definite “ooo” that transforms into a cheer of yay!
Random observation from the #SportingKC game last night. Usually the crowd reacts to a goal with a collective “Yeah!” When @gbusio13 buried that free kick, it was a collective “Ohhhh!” As if none of the 20,000 people in attendance could quite believe what they just saw.— Sam Kovzan (@skovzan) May 30, 2021
Perhaps it was the pent-up desire to return to a sense of normalcy for fans attending the first game with full capacity combined with a team that is in good form set the stage. Toss in the spectacular goal to set it free and the whole stadium roared in a shared catharsis. The stadium erupted like it had not for at least a year... Maybe longer...
But I am not done with photos yet. Just because the ball has went into the net and comeback out the other side to taunt the keeper, the photographer cannot stop and enjoy. He needs to shoot more. The ball going in the net is a good image but the best, the very best images are the celebrations. As a photographer friend who is no longer with us told me, get “the Jube”. The jubilation is the best photos.
So now the mission is to find where the celebration is and where it is headed. In this case Busio does the photographer a favor and runs towards the corner on my side. In this next image, he is running towards the corner to celebrate, and he has Daniel Salloi running with him and Andreu Fontas chasing along.
While all of this is going on and wanting to celebrate as well (but can’t outwardly as media), there is still the need to make sure the camera is tracking the players and keeping focus, while making sure the buffer is not overflowing and looking for what may come next.
Busio puts on a burst of speed, gaining separation from his followers as Khiry Shelton puts on a burst of speed and closes in on Salloi.
Gianluca goes for the slide...
As Busio comes up from the slide, Shelton and Salloi form the backup band for his celebration...
And now for the final shot that I am going to share...
Busio slides across the ground, a hand trailing like a surfer going through the pipeline that lets a hand dangle to skim the water. Busio, Salloi and Shelton leave a trail of water rising from the field behind them on the damp grass as they slide.
Photographer’s choice in editing for this one, black and white and a little contrasty to make it all stand out a bit more and extra wide to highlight the fans in the background.
Thanks for letting me indulge in sharing a shot I really like. This link should let you see it larger.