Real Salt Lake rookie center forward Devon Sandoval didn’t score a goal in his first league start. He didn’t register an assist. He wasn’t even the focal point of discussion after the match. His performance was buried under other topics such as Robbie Findley’s first goal since his return, and the return to the field of Javier Morales. However, his mark was left all over this match.
“He’s not just all about hard work. He’s a pretty darn good player, pretty good passer, has some good ideas,” explained his coach, Jason Kreis. “He just covers so much ground. To have a young player basically showing the rest by example what Real Salt Lake means to him and what this opportunity means for him – what it means to get a chance to play professional soccer -I think is saying alot. I hope that all the guys took notice.”
As we’ll see, Sandoval had a hand in many of the key highlights for RSL:
Highlight #1 (7′): A great cross delivered by Mansally curls behind the defense to the feet of Sandoval who makes a great direct run. Unfortunately his first touch eludes him, and his second poke at the ball puts it right into the torso of Gspurning.
Highlight #2 (8′): The Findley goal came off of a long throw by Beltran and a great individual finish by Findley. It’s easy to overlook Sandoval’s involvement. Obviously, the previous highlight led to the throw-in. Also if he didn’t seal off his defender so well, this play would have never happened. And finally by making a quick move around his defender he blocked any potential outlet, causing Evans to knock the ball off of his teammate (Alonzo) which gave Findley the chance to do his magic.
Highlight #3 (32′): This play was setup well by Gil, who was patient and waited for the right time to send in this cross. It appeared that Sandoval was going to trap the ball, and likely hold it up, but he recognized the run of Grabavoy in behind him, and let the ball through. Great recognition – something that many players would have missed.
Highlight #4 (34′): Very creative movement and buildup by the midfield. Beckerman’s pass to Plata puts him in a great position to find Sandoval with an entry pass. Sandoval doesn’t get a solid foot on it unfortunately, and Gspurning is able to snuff out the attempt. However, this type of play shows that the rookie is always positioned where he should be, and makes the proper runs.
Highlight #5 (45′): Sandoval with a long flicked-on header to a streaking Plata who finds himself in alone against Gspurning. Unfortunately Plata is unable to get it past the Austrian GK. Lovely recognition and execution again by Sandoval.
Highlight #6 (55′): Once again, it’s Sandoval with a quick flick-on to Plata who finds himself just outside the 6 yard area with only the GK to beat. Unfortunately, Plata is once again denied. Yet another example of Sandoval being in the correct place, and having the right idea.
Highlight #7 (85′): This one is obvious, but again, right place and right idea. Sandoval with a one-touch pass to Morales who has split the defenders toward the top of the penalty area. Morales appears to get clipped in the box, but doesn’t earn the penalty.
So what are your thoughts on the rookie’s performance? Are you becoming a Devon Sandoval fan?