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Goal Breakdown: Devon Sandoval's opener against LA Galaxy

Devon Sandoval scored a screamer of a goal against LA Galaxy, and it exemplified a host of positive qualities the team has been showing in recent weeks — movement, understanding, and effort.

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Devon Sandoval had a fantastic match against LA Galaxy on Saturday, and that's exemplified by his first goal — a stunning effort inside the first ten minutes that caught a sleeping defense unaware.

From the opening minute, Javier Morales took control of the game, and this goal starts with his influence front and center. First, take a look at how incredibly open the playmaker is. For any good team, the first point of order should always knowing where the opposition's most dangerous players have moved. Judging by Morales's position, Bruce Arena's side didn't do that.

It starts with Kyle Beckerman recovering a ball from a corner — that's why Aaron Maund is up, and that's important to know. It's also how Morales has managed to free himself from the watchful eyes of the midfield, because he's sort of drifted in from taking corner. Just look at Beckerman spotting Morales — some midfielders might turn and shoot, and maybe they'd find success that way. But he's not so self-serving, and it pays off here.

Also note here that Maund, Burrito Martinez, and Sandoval are in a tight triangle against the defense. This throws off marking so significantly that one player is marking those three, and he's also keeping them onside when they look like they might be trying to play an offside trap.

Moving on, we see Aaron Maund's completely unmarked, more or less, while Devon Sandoval is free to make his run. Martinez has no need to, but he certainly could have moved, too, but instead, he's moving back — wisely, because he's now attracting the attention of a player who might otherwise be marking Maund or Sandoval. There's not a lot of difference here, but this is an important frame because it shows how a little separation has gone a long way.

Here's where the goal starts to look like a training ground exercise. Maund is more or less unchallenged to this ball, and he's free to knock it down for Sandoval's run. And that run — he's understanding where Maund can put the ball reliably and taking advantage of that. This is a significant moment.

Sandoval's finish is brilliant here. He's taken it calmly, he's not forced the issue, and he's looking before he shoots. These are improvements in Sandoval's play, and they're significant for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that Real Salt Lake is thriving with Sandoval's improvements.

Of course, none of this is possible without Javier Morales catching the raised arms of Aaron Maund and hosting the ball upward, Maund knowing where his teammate is running, or even Sandoval making the perfect run for the goal. Those are big things that go unnoticed among the "amazing pass" and "great finish" qualities we first look for, but they're just as important as anything else that brings the team success.