Devon Sandoval, University of New Mexico graduate, not only played as a rookie but played well.
Sandoval tied RSL's all time US Open Cup goal record and was a huge, huge part of RSL making it to both the US Open Cup final and the MLS Cup final.
Who would expect a rookie under Kreis to start 12 games and score four goals? That's what happens when you are a rookie like Sandoval. He made his mark by outworking everyone. Kreis mentioned that he covered more ground than anyone else on the entire team -- six or seven miles per game.
RSL is undefeated when Sandoval scores, and generally the team scored more goals when he was on the pitch than when he was off. Sandoval was good enough in the playoffs that there was a real debate about whether he should start the MLS Cup final.
Clearly he exceeded anyone's expectations. He already is one of RSL's most successful second round picks and has a bright future ahead of him.
Going forward, he will have a lot of talented competition to try and beat out to get more minutes. With his work rate, you would never want to sleep on that possibility. He, like all young strikers, could improve his positioning and accuracy in shooting, but by no means was he bad. He scored 4 goals in the regular season and playoffs on 23 shots (and another 3 goals in the US Open Cup).
His role for 2014 appears to be a backup striker and developmental player. He could improve by just getting more time on the pitch and increasing his shot accuracy. As he develops he appears to be a real steal for RSL.
RSL Soapbox writers say:
Matt Montgomery: Devon Sandoval was one of the biggest surprises of 2013 for his ability and contribution paired alongside his humility. Despite outperforming most rookies in MLS by a country mile, he never seemed to let that fact cloud his judgment. His game is simple, and his attitude is admirable.
Editor's note: This is part of a series of player profiles recapping the 2013 season and previewing the 2014 season. Player ratings were compiled via a vote by RSL Soapbox writers. Statistics are via mlssoccer.com.