Sophomore players in MLS often have it the hardest. Expectations from a good rookie year are often high, and Devon Sandoval is certainly one of those hardest hit.
Sandoval was the ninth-highest-rated player in our 2013 player profiles, nabbing a 7.75 in our aggregate contributor ratings. This year? A lowly 4.1. He's not a bad player, and that's probably the most frustrating part - for him and for us.
After scoring three goals in his first year, Sandoval found minutes and goals in short supply. Suffering a broken foot before the MLS Cup final last year, he took a bit of time to come back into full fitness. Understandably so. Injuries like that can scupper a career, let alone a single year of play.
While Alvaro Saborio was absent with a broken foot himself, Sandoval should have been the player to step into that spot. But a preponderance of factors meant he was never the first choice alongside Joao Plata, and he more often than not found himself starting but substituted through June and July.
As August and September rolled in, Sandoval just wasn't getting minutes. He found himself loaned for several games to Carolina Railhawks, where he was actually pretty good, finding the net here and there. The duck, as they say, was broken, but by that point, he wasn't going to get minutes at Real Salt Lake in 2014.
Alvaro Saborio, after all, had returned from his foot injury, and was always going to be ahead in the pecking order, and Sebastian Jaime had arrived and was going to get minutes, too. Robbie Findley, who was perhaps only slightly ahead of Sandoval in the pecking order, had developed his play to support that position, too. Olmes Garcia was stuck in largely the same spot as Sandoval, unable to earn minutes toward the end of the season.
What exactly happens with Sandoval is difficult to say. He's contracted through next year, but that doesn't guarantee him minutes. He could certainly earn time with Real Monarchs, and if he remains at the club, he'll probably be utilized there. But there remains a possibility that he could get picked up in the expansion draft next week, and perhaps a team will take interest in him as a trade option.
Editor's note: This is part of a series of player profiles recapping the 2014 season and previewing the 2015 season. Player ratings were compiled via a vote by RSL Soapbox writers. Statistics are via mlssoccer.com.