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Goal Breakdown: Stertzer capitalizes on great team understanding against NYCFC

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

John Stertzer's goal to put Real Salt Lake up 1-0 against New York City FC was a thing of beauty, and not because of the well-placed finish.

While the finish was perfect, it was RSL responding to lost possession that made the difference.

Interestingly, Stertzer was actually in the defensive half less than a minute prior — he was back in an almost covering position for the rest of the midfield, who had pushed up field a bit. RSL won a throw-in in the opposing half, and Stertzer immediately recognized an opportunity to get forward safely. But the play almost seems to trickle out after an attacking throw-in when Luis Gil loses the ball. I'd argue that's vital.

Call me crazy, but if Gil hadn't lost the ball where he did — right around the edge of the attacking third, and it was a little cheaply — this goal wouldn't have emerged. Sure, another might have, but I'm awfully tied to the one that happened. Regardless, Gil losing the ball in that position enabled RSL to win it back very quickly.

Take a look at this.

Real Salt Lake responding to losing the ball.

See how high Tony Beltran's pushed up? That's not coincidental. He's forcing a pass, and he's acting here almost as a ball-winning midfielder — not as a right back. I don't know if it's communication or a second sense, but Jamison Olave and Beltran have a connection here. By forcing a pass, Beltran's given a pretty clear opening to the attacking player to play a one-two with David Villa. A good opportunity, right?

Well, Olave's right there, and he steps in before Villa even really gets a chance to think — in fact, you can see him here, and he's the nice little blur on the right side.

Jamison Olave with a burst to win the ball.

There's more than a little luck involved in this play, and it's partly that the referee didn't end up getting in the way of Kyle Beckerman's lob up-field.

Beckerman lobs the ball up-field.

That's a hopeful lob, but it's also placed such that Devon Sandoval not only gets there, but gets there first. Those flick-on headers — very good ones he's been producing lately — are dangerous because they're bypassing normal passing lanes, in essence connecting Beckerman to a player he'd never have reached before.

And look at this understanding from Stertzer — that's the crux of the whole play.

John Stertzer, with some very good recognition, runs on to the flicked header.

How good is Stertzer's positioning here? This is seriously good stuff. He's ahead of the right midfielder (Mehdi Ballouchy), who's just sort of floating, and the center backs are cut out immediately because one of them has gone up to try to win the header. The right back, Shay Facey, is the player who probably should have known where Stertzer is, but he's for some reason collapsed inside.

Stertzer's finish is perfect, and the defenders are just too slow to even confront him about the shot. He has all the time he needs, and he takes his opportunity brilliantly.

Stertzer has all the time in the world.

And here you are. Watch the whole thing and enjoy.