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2015 Player Profiles: Devon Sandoval

Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Devon Sandoval, outside of Alvaro Saborio, may very well be the most divisive player among those loyal to Real Salt Lake in recent history. He is a brutish player that uses his stature to muscle his way to loose balls and wears out defenders with his relentless proclivity to never give up on a ball. Many RSL fans love him for just that.

He has a lot of heart and will bully his will on defenses. He always does well to hold up the ball (see my player ratings nearly every time he sees the field) and his touch was much better in 2015 than in 2014. He had an incredible goal that nearly nobody knew he was capable of in Montreal. That goal led to Sandoval easily winning MLS Goal of the Week. Of course, that game ended in a 4-1 loss for RSL so the award was not much of a consolation.

The truth about Sandoval's upside is pretty clear. In 2015, Real Salt Lake scored at a much higher frequency when he was on the field than when he was not. Over the entire course of the season, when Sandoval was playing, RSL scored every 66 minutes. When he was not on the field, they scored a dismal once very 103 minutes (thanks to Charles Barnard for those numbers. Follow him at @ccb1212). That is by far the biggest benefit he brings to the team: his ability to distract and fatigue the opposition allowing his teammates to score more easily.

This is not to say that Sandoval is an elite MLS forward. He's not. He had some clear chances throughout the season that left a lot of the spectators pulling their hair in frustration. He will rarely if ever win a foot race. He is limited in his attacking prowess. But at the end of the day, Sandoval finished 7th in the RSL Soapbox contributors' player ratings. Did he have a pretty decent year after all? Or did he stand out more than he should have because Real Salt Lake never really had a healthy roster? The answers to those questions will show that the rift among supporters and defectors is not going to slow down any time soon.